Accepted paper:

No Longer at Ease. Dialogues between Archives, Photographs, Scholars and the Public Sphere


Jürg Schneider (University of Basel)
Rosario Mazuela

Paper short abstract:

Inspired by recent scholarship which increasingly considers archives as subjects of study than primary as the location of sources this paper investigates various ways in which scholars and a general public can make use of the Cameroon Press Photo Archives that are currently being digitized.

Paper long abstract:

Developing and deepening their understanding of what archives are researchers of a variety of disciplines increasingly look at archives not only as neutral sites of storage but as subjects of investigation in their own right. Extending the simple question what scholars can do with archives to what archives themselves can do, thus marking a shift from an object-based to a subject-based way of looking at archives, this paper investigates the biography of the Cameroon Press Photo Archives and its historical and contemporary links to, and reciprocal relationships with, social and political practices of representation and documentation. On a general level it raises questions about the role of archives and archive-like activities in contemporary, and past, social and political life. The digitization and rearrangement of material, and the acquisition of data, which is currently carried out in the context of the project "Cameroon Photo Press Archives. Protection, Conservation, Access", is only the last in a series of several other historical moments indicating changing public, political and academic environments. It opens a window of opportunity for new ways of reading this outstanding Photo Archive. Founded in 1955 by the British colonial authorities and continued by the independent Cameroonian state the institution and its holdings bridge the colonial and postcolonial period and simultaneously reflect documentary practices and custodial activities. Charting the archives' biography allows us to follow its motions and movements, and the permanently renewed exchange by which the archive is influenced and simultaneously influences its environment.

panel P27
Archives, Art and Text