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Eusebius McKaiser discusses Tribing and Untribing the Archive on 702

Eusebius McKaiser recently discussed Carolyn Hamilton’s and Nessa Leibhammer’s Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Volume Two on Talk Radio 702.

The pernicious combination of tribe and tradition continues to tether modern South Africans to ideas about the region’s remote past as primitive, timeless and unchanging. Any hunger for knowledge or understanding of the past before European colonialism thus remains to a significant degree unsated, even denied, in the face of a narrowly prescribed archive and repugnant, but insidiously resilient stereotypes.

These volumes track how the domain of the tribal and traditional was marked out and came to be sharply distinguished from modernity, how it was denied a changing history and an archive and was endowed instead with a timeless culture. These volumes also offer strategies for engaging with the materials differently – from the interventions effected in contemporary artworks to the inserting of nameless, timeless objects of material culture into histories of individualised and politicised experience.

The central proposition of these volumes is to make the marooned archive of material culture more visible and more available for consideration as an archival resource than it is currently. They also seek to spring the identity trap, releasing the material from pre-assigned identity positions as tribal into settings that enable them to be used as resources for thinking critically about identity in the long past and in the present.

Professor Carolyn Hamilton is a South African anthropologist and historian who is a specialist in the history and uses of archives. She is National Research Foundation of South Africa chair in Archive and Public Culture at the University of Cape Town. Her publications include The Mfecane Aftermath (1995), Terrific Majesty (1998), and co-editorship of Refiguring the Archive (2002), the Cambridge History of South Africa (2012) and Uncertain Curature (2014).

Nessa Leibhammer is an independent scholar, curator and writer in heritage and material culture. She was previously the Curator of the Traditional Collections at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Exhibitions she has curated include the Jackson Hlungwane – A New Jerusalem retrospective exhibition (2014-15) and Dungamanzi: Stirring Waters where she was lead curator as well as editor of the accompanying catalogue (2005).

McKaiser explored the ‘re-intribing’ of cultures with John Wright, Research Fellow in the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative at the University of Cape Town, and Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Research Manager at the Public Affairs Research Institute.

Listen to the podcast here:

 

Tribing and Untribing the Archive, Volume Two

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