Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7 PM

On Barak

Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University

Re-Collections: Archival Activism in the Middle East

Moderator: Dr. Sonja Hegasy, Berlin

Gradually during the last decade, and much more rapidly since 2011, the loci, praxis, and stakes of history-writing in the Middle East have been shifting. These shifts are a result of the convergence of technological innovations (such as catalogue computerization, digitalization of documents, and web-based archiving), the penetration of new market logics into state-owned institutions, and the increasing privatization of resource management and keeping, and finally, a wave of political protest that swept through the region, opening up previously unimaginable political futures which entailed a radical revision of the past.
The talk maps the new terrain of historiography in Egypt and Israel. Each of these neighboring countries reveals different aspects in the emergence of a new attitude to the past: Egypt was the epicenter of the so-called Arab Spring, focused on regime change. In Israel, the summer of discontent in 2011 sought to tackle a power shift from the shrinking welfare state to neo-liberal private ownership. The talk examines the appearance of new actors, such as the historian/activist, the whistleblower from within the archive; direct attacks against, and subtler subversions of the conventional state archive – be they from inside the archive, or in external arenas such as the court system; and finally, the development of alternative archives and new forms of documentation which seek to make the past available to the public in new ways, or alternatively, seeking to make the same old past available to new publics.

On Barak studied law and Islamic Studies in Jerusalem and Leiden. He obtained his PhD at New York University and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Princeton University Society of Fellows and lecturer in Princeton’s History Department. In addition to scholarly articles, he has also published poetry, including translations of Arabic poets. His book On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt is forthcoming from California University Press.

Sonja Hegasy is deputy director of the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin.

The event will be held in English