Limits of Archives: Mapping Urban Spaces in Modern South Asia

All day
Seminar Room 2, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta

R-1, Baishnabghata-Patuli Township, Kolkata 700094


Modern cities and urban spaces have set unique challenges to archivists and archival practices globally. Archivists, in response, have reimagined their institutional mandates, articulated new categories, reconfigured their own internal hierarchies, learned methodologically from quotidian urban practices such as flânerie to understand and map urban formations. Engagements with archives have led to the articulation of new categories and such categories have critically informed the way we look at cities and suburban spaces. Archives thus underpin both modes of surveillance and resistance, and the agenda of research and agitation. However, self-reflexive archivists are acutely aware of the limits of their explanatory powers and this sense of lack has often pushed them to redesign the very material infrastructure of archives, and legislate new institutional norms of use and access. Consequently, these redefinitions have led archivists to engage with newer technologies and the emergent legal regimes that seek to govern them. Here, the local context comes to critically define an otherwise global phenomenon, and the registers of identitarian differences such as race, caste, gender, and class inflect and play on these processes.

In this day-long international conference on the Limits of Archives: Mapping Urban Spaces in Modern South Asia , the aim t was to engage with some of the questions that have been outlined above. The event also featured presentations on how archival practices focused on urban spaces have sought to use new technologies and modalities of record-keeping to build new material infrastructure for archives, and to address the critical question of the ethical imperative.

At this confernece, the UChicago Faculty Member Laura A. Ring, a subject specialist in South and Southeast Asian Studies and Anthropology presented her paper titled "The Politics of Documentation: Thinking Beyond Conflict in Karachi" and also participating in a round table discussion on "Challenges of “Open Access”: Reflections on the South Asia Materials Project , South Asia Open Archives , and the CSSSC Archive." 

This conference was organised by the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.