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Accepted Contribution:

“Living Archives” in/of Incarceration  
Riddhi Pandey (Geneva Graduate Institute (IHEID))

Contribution short abstract:

In this presentation, I reflect on three diverse archives that record and represent carceral life and the politics of imprisonment in India through time. These “Living Archives” are prison museums, prison diaries/memoirs, and social media accounts in solidarity with political prisoners.

Contribution long abstract:

“Living Archives” of incarceration are crucial to understanding and engaging with oppression, whether by the colonial or the post-colonial Indian state. These three archives facilitate the creation of counter-narratives of colonialism, repression, and carceral violence. And yet, in producing or engaging with these well-intentioned “Living Archives” of incarceration, we must ask again, which voices and stories continue to remain subdued?

The first archive takes the form of former prison sites which are revived by the post-colonial Indian state as museums and monuments dedicated to India’s freedom struggle. These sites narrate stories of revolutionaries from the anti-colonial struggle of the 19th and 20th Centuries. The revival of these sites now comes at a time when the Indian state is frequently using the rhetoric of decolonisation, often even to justify its downward slide into populism and authoritarianism.

The second archive is the prison memoir/diary including letters and poetry written from and about life in prison. Prisons are opaque institutions and are infamous for extensive documentation albeit only from the perspective of the incarcerator. Writings from those imprisoned are courageous counter-narratives to the state's version, which voice stories and lived realities of those repressed and criminalised in prisons.

The third archive takes the form of social media accounts in solidarity with political prisoners presently incarcerated in Indian prisons. Often operated by families, friends, and political allies of those incarcerated but followed by diverse audiences, these accounts provide real-time updates and run campaigns for release. These accounts facilitate interaction, conversation, political mobilisation, and action.

Roundtable RT132
What is a living archive?
  Session 1 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -