Posts Tagged activist
The Swiss Peace Foundation (or simply SwissPeace) recently began a new project called Archives and Dealing with the Past. It is a joint venture between the foundation, the Swiss Federal Archives, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The project mandate is to offer a hub between archivists/documentalists and human rights activists dealing with the past. Members of the ICA Human Rights Working Group serve on their Advisory Board. Consequently, one aim of the project is to foster knowledge exchange between the two professional communities (of archivists and activists) and engage in knowledge management activities. In fact, SwissPeace reached out to the ICA HRWG Directory Project last month and discussions to converge on parallel projects are taking place.
As part of New York Archives Week next month, the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (ART) and the New School Libraries and Archives are pleased to co-sponsor a symposium on archives and activism. They have posted a preliminary schedule and are still accepting registrations for the October 12 event.
The symposium covers topics surrounding the contention between activists movements pushing for reforms vis-a-vis conceptions of the archivist’s role in handling materials of cultural and social significance as one originating from hegemonic and traditional institutional frameworks. This symposium thus offers to reconceptualize the role of the archivist as societal needs evolve and technologies emerge while balancing the archives’ commitment to the institutions that fund and administer them…
The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART) has shared its call for participation in an upcoming symposium in the fall with AW and its readers:
“The rebellion of the archivist against his normal role is not, as so many scholars fear, the politicizing of a neutral craft, but the humanizing of an inevitably political craft.”
— Howard Zinn “Secrecy, Archives, and the Public Interest,” Vol. II, No. 2 (1977) of Midwestern Archivist.
The boundaries between “archivist” and “activist” have become increasingly porous, rendering ready distinctions between archivists (traditionally restricted to the preservation of records, maintaining accountability, and making critical information available to the communities they serve) and activists (who, with greater frequency, look to archives or adopt elements of archival practice as a means of documenting their struggles) virtually unsustainable. In the past year, archivists and citizen activists collaborated to document the Occupy Wall Street movement, and archivists committed to open government worked with the New York City Council to advocate for keeping the Municipal Archives as an independent city agency. While the apparent convergence of archival and activist worlds may appear a timely and relevant topic, these distinct communities often deliberate their roles separately with little dialogue.
ART and the New School Archives and Special Collections are sponsoring a symposium to bring together a diverse group of archivists, activists, students, and theorists with the aim of facilitating discussion of their respective concerns. Among its proposed topics, the symposium will address potential roles that archivists may engage in as activists, as well as how archivists can assume a greater role in documenting and contributing toward social and political change.
Possible areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:
– Archivists documenting the work of activists and activist movements
– Activists confronting traditional archival practice
– Possible models for an emergent “activist archives”
– Methodologies for more comprehensively documenting activism
– Archivist and activist collaborations
– Community-led archives and repositories operating outside of the archival establishment
– Archives as sites of knowledge (re)production and in(ter)vention
– Relational paradigms for mapping the interplay of power, justice, and archives…
Kate Doyle of the National Security Archive and contributor to the blog, Unredacted, has shared some disturbing news with AW that is sure to upset many archivists and disrupt Guatemalan civil society. The Secretary of Peace, Antonio Arenales Forno stated that by June 29 the government would, “cancel [labor] contracts for which I see no justification and end the functions of an office that I find makes no sense.”
Doyle has worked with files of the Guatemalan National Police Archives in a recent trial against officers who perpetrated violence and government repression against activists during the 36-year internal conflict that ended in 1996. The Peace Archives comprise of documentation that provided material for this trial, inter alia. Specifically, the archives house government files from the civil war. The archives were just conceived in 2008, preceding an access to information law passed the same year. The FOI law was intended to create openness and government transparency. This recent announcement to dismantle the archives is a step back for human rights defenders engaged in truth and reconciliation, open memory, and right-to-know initiatives.
However, in Doyle’s article for Unredacted, the Secretary of Peace defends his decision, admitting that “he was unsure what the government would do with the institution’s extensive digital archives, suggesting they may be transferred to the General Archives of Central America” among other government institutions. The Secretary told the press that the redistribution of the files is part of the broad restructuring of the government.
In cases of transitional governments, the issue of the trustworthiness of stewards or custodians of material documenting human rights violations is crucial from the perspective of the archival community. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, Chair of the ICA Human Rights Working Group, stresses that if the incumbent government archives cannot be trusted, then an intermediary repository, managed by trusted groups or individuals should be created. Currently, the Secretary has not announced any concrete plan toward housing the files to be redistributed making it difficult to assess the impact of the restructuring. Peterson goes further to state:
But if these are government records, they should eventually go back into government hands. Part of the restructuring of a government to prevent the recurrence of conflict and to protect human rights has to be the revitalization and modernization of the governmental archives system. Each country has to have the capacity to manage its court records and military records, records of diplomacy and records of land title. As part of rebuilding government structures after a period of civic trauma, we have to find ways to persuade governments and donors that rebuilding archives is also crucial.*
Other professionals argue that while trust is a strong factor in determining the custody of records documenting wide-scale abuse, the argument should go further to state that is it the trust of survivors and victim’s families that is paramount. By all accounts, the commonly suggested alternative to government custody are grassroots organizations and other NGOs represented by survivors or those directly affected by the crimes.
Join WITNESS and New Tactics for an online dialogue on Archiving Human Rights for Advocacy, Justice and Memory from May 16 to 22, 2012.
New Tactics and WITNESS have invited Archivists Watch to participate in this dialogue. The invitation is extended to anyone interested to the topic and I urge you to observe and join in to enrich the conversation.
Tunisian migrants in France, homeless and struggling to return to their native Tunisia, stumbled upon thousands of pages of archives from the former ruling party while trying to find shelter. Al-Jazeera English has reported according to its sources that the migrants found two rooms in a building known as a Tunisian cultural center that was filled with photos, correspondence, financial records, lists of party members for the Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD) in France, information on Tunisian dissidents, along with files on French political figures and journalists. It is now being said that the building used to belong to Ben Ali’s now disbanded political party, the RCD.
The Tunisian migrants have been forced to scatter under continuing police pressure. After their eviction, the group moved to the Buttes Chaumount Park across the street from the building. There, they faced daily visits from the police. Their case is but one example of how the French government’s approach to the unprecedented influx of migrants has been to turn up the repression, activists say. This is happening despite a 2008 agreement signed between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Ben Ali, under which France agreed to offer assistance to 9,000 Tunisian migrants a year to help them return home.
As for the archive, Paul Da Silva, a French activist who lobbies for freedom of information, says that the documents contain explosive revelations about French ties with the former regime’s leading figures. For lawyers and activists, the document stash in Paris gives them a second chance to comb through the RCD’s activities…