Accepted paper:

The body in the archive: Iraqi archives in exile


Rebecca Whiting (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

During the 2 Gulf Wars, substantial collections of official records were displaced from Iraq. The body exists in the archives as the subject of state violence. Through displacement, new interactions with the records have occurred; bodies have left traces and in turn been impacted by the papers.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers the impact of interactions between bodies and records, looking at the looted Iraqi archives and the processes they have endured through conflict, movement and exploitation for evidence. The records were displaced due to the data they contain, as potential evidence of abuses against the body. This project, however, considers their materiality and explores their history as physical collections, focusing on the information they convey above that printed on the page. The record is examined as an object that carries a history and that in turn has been an agent of history, impacting those that have interacted with it. In every stage of their lives as an archive, the collections of records have experienced interventions and reconstitution; as the archives have evolved, new interactions and new readings have taken place. Drawing on material culture and postmodern archival theory, this paper uses interviews with human rights workers, archivists and researchers who have worked with collections of official Iraqi records to explore the impacts the archives have had in their displacement - politically, emotionally and materially. Understanding archives as perpetually in process means allowing for the reality that they will be experienced in changing ways and new meanings will be generated at the various stages of the archive's biography. The Iraqi archives in their exile, displaced from the hands of agents of the state, passing from armed fighters through to diplomats and human rights workers, demonstrate the evolution of an archive a both an object and agent of history.

panel P029
Bodies of Archives/Archival Bodies