Panel Clusters                                                                                                                                      PDF

I. Press Photography

Having achieved independence, many African states created their own press agencies or took over existing colonial setups concerned with gathering, producing, processing and disseminating information. Young African nation states in obvious need of forging and promoting national identities, and being conscious of the crucial role political and cultural rites and iconography assumed in this process, relied heavily on the evidentiary power of photographic images. Transforming events into statements, and indeed, to paraphrase Foucault further, presenting the nation state as a unique event, the press photo agencies assumed an important role in the development of the postcolonial political order in Africa.

Papers should deal with the following questions/themes (non-exhaustive list!)

- The genre of press photography, its actors and the media it serves.

- Role of state press photography agencies for the training of photographers and their subsequent activities as permanently employed or freelance art photographers, etc.

- Modes of collaboration between newly constituted African states and their respective press agencies and countries of the West and East, particularly during the Cold War era.

II. The ‘Living Archive’

Considering the establishment of museums, national archives and press agencies as fundamental (and foundational) acts in the creation of modern states and for the promotion of national identities, we are confronted with the visual legacy of the postcolonial state nowadays, both with the sites where that material is kept and the material itself. Interestingly, the state press agencies which remain after the tremendous technological and political developments of the last 30 years have themselves completely disconnected from their analogue past which they have turned into an archive. However, although decontextualized from its original operational purpose and now evidently transformed into products of history, press photo archives in Africa, as indeed other archives, too, continue to participate in the making of knowledge about the past, present and future.

Papers should deal with the following questions/themes (non-exhaustive list!)

- The ‘Archive’ as a process as opposed to a repository with distinct practices of collecting and archiving.

- Roles of individuals (including scholars) and policies in an archive’s operational life.

- How can artists and scholars critically engage with the archive as a socially and culturally embedded institution which generates and transforms realities and perceptions?

- How did/do African state press agencies adapt to their changing technical and political environments? (keywords: democratization, freedom of expression, digital age, IT)

III. Mobility of, and Access to, Images and Archives

Movement is inherent both in photographic images and social practices which deal with their production, dissemination and location, as well as in situations of concealment and public display alike. Thus questions about how this material and accompanying phenomenological conditions are organized, who decides about the policies of movement/stasis, and about the reproduction and usage of photographic images need to be tackled. As such, collections of images require to be explored within the broader context of the ‘Archive’ in its conceptual diversity.

Papers should deal with the following questions/themes (non-exhaustive list!)

- Assessment and analysis of the provenance, placement and displacement of materials in archival holdings and setups.

- Politics and practices of concealment and display.

- The role of archives in the formation of postcolonial African nation states.

- The writing of national history/histories: Archives and the shaping of collective memories.