Living digital archives in contemporary pasts: ‘Abadan: retold’

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology

This paper presents digital-ethnographic research conducted as part of a collaborative digital social history project entitled Abadan: Retold. The online multimedia platform brings together scholars, artists, and former and current residents of the oil city of Abadan in Southwest Iran; a geographical place and cosmopolitan identity that underwent physical and symbolic destruction during the revolution of 1979 and subsequent war with Iraq (1980-1988). The platform features research, photographs, interviews, films, and articles evoking the 20th and 21st century histories of the city through collaborative archiving, curating and digital-visual storytelling practices. Through these processes, a contemporary sense of Abadan as was, as is, and as could be emerges in the digital landscape, while connecting people to their pasts and to each other.

The paper will look, in particular, at the cultural work of digitised historical photographs shared online on Abadani social network sites. The digital photographic album-archive here not only provides occasions for (re-)viewing private photographs in public/semi-public arenas, but also forms a point of media assemblage; an interactive, culturally (a)live, and ‘living’ archive that begets a social network. The paper concludes with theoretical propositions about the popular digital photographic album-archive, as a ‘glocal’ point of assemblage and remediation, in/of contemporary pasts.

Convened by Dr Inge Daniels and Dr Chris Morton