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Accepted Paper:

The archive as potential. Investigating biographical objects in the context of forced displacement.  
Julia Sonnleitner (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

When people escape war, the few things that can be brought on the journey contrast with a massive dispossession. This paper explores how objects are kept, discarded, and circulated as they move in and out of domestic, public, and digital archives. Archives engender a potentiality for future uses.

Paper long abstract:

Research on biographical objects has established that the biographies of people and things are mutually constituted. Things are created in social configurations and, vice versa, afford social relations in various stages of life. However, neither people’s nor object biographies are linear but rather fragmented and contingent. My aim is to illustrate the dynamic nature of biographical objects as a consequence of discursive-historical as well as biographical forces: when are objects moved, stored, curated, displayed, packed away, taken out, or discussed? The notion of the archive allows a focus on objects' surplus values for potential future uses as they transit between domestic, public, and digital archives. In my analysis of biographic interviews, I address memory objects in the context of forced displacement from Ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s. This context raises issues of possession in light of, and in contrast to, dispossession and violence. Based on a cooperative research design, research partners decided on the objects, media artefacts, and periods of life they wanted to further investigate. I will discuss how people retrospectively assess their entangled biographies with objects. Based on two examples, I will demonstrate, firstly, how things afford and strengthen social relations in various stages of life and secondly, how things that are left behind or lost might later be recovered through digitally networked relationships and archives and eventually be re-domesticated. The findings have implications for exploring biographical objects in their many transits and transitions between (and within) domestic and digital spaces, public archives, and museums.

Panel P099a
Reordering Domestic Spaces: Wild Ecologies of Things in the 21st Century I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -