About the Seminar
The ongoing pandemic has provoked an array of discussions about how we talk about the past during a time of global disruption. For the field of modern global history – that is, the history of transnational connections from the nineteenth century onwards – the pandemic poses practical questions that arise in dialogue with growing interest in ‘disconnectivity’ and ‘deglobalization’ among historians. The closure of archives under national lockdowns and restrictions on international travel mean that the use of multiple archives across national borders, recognised as integral to the field, is for the foreseeable future unfeasible. And yet, regardless of the pandemic, such practices have always relied on the possession of a ‘strong’ passport and the funding of a wealthy institution. Terms such as ‘Covid-proofing’, if not considered critically and now, could lead to the exclusion and silencing of certain voices.
This seminar series asks what the pandemic means for the future of global history’s ‘global archives’ and how historians might use this moment of disruption to respond to some of the limitations of the field in the long term.
Since the postcolonial and cultural turns, historians have paid more attention to the politics of the archive, but how might these debates be re-animated when it comes to travel-free research? The pandemic, after all, is not the only challenge to archival accessibility, given climatic crises and state interference across the globe. Digitisation is often presented as a democratic and accessible alternative to ‘paper’ archives, but who should (not) fund this digitisation, what archives are missed and how much is ‘lost in translation’? Were the archives of global history ever really ‘global’? Could archives that do reveal global connections better serve as resources for public history initiatives in particular regions or cities? Might the future look collaborative rather than (or as well as) digital?
Each seminar will invite up to four researchers and practitioners (not all of whom identify as ‘global historians’) to take part in an informal roundtable-style conversation on a particular theme, guided by the convenors. This will be followed by questions from the audience. Seminars will be 90 minutes in length.
Image credit: Jennifer O’Donnell, Archive Folders, 2012, watercolour
Preliminary 2021 programme:
- 26 April: Radicals and exiles
- 17 May: Science, technology and senses
- 14 June: Cities and buildings
- 4 October: Violence and the archives of annihilation
- 25 October: Expertise, entrepreneurship and global missionary archives
- 22 November: TBC