2019 – Heritage

Talk 1:


Sukanta Chaudhuri, Professor Emeritus, Jadavpur University

Memory implies retrieving or recollecting a record from the past. Primarily, this recording and retrieval take place within the mind. But since the emergence of writing, imaging and (much later) audio and video recording, our memory has been reliant on technology. What we record and remember is conditioned by how we record and remember it. Revolutions in memorial technology thus bring about revolutions in knowledge and mental process. This is specially true of the formal memorial records we call archives.

Some major implications follow.

  • Memory is never total. Only a fraction of the past can be recorded or archived. The selection is determined not only by the purpose and judgment of the archivist but the technology employed.
  • Records preserve material but also alter it. The material is taken out of the original dynamic milieu of its birth and being, and objectified or reified within a different frame of validation. How, and how far, can an archive preserve not only the intrinsic character but the contextual identity of its material?
  • Memory commonly operates through random association, as optimally presented in the novels of Marcel Proust; but memorializing through records or archives involves ordering and categorizing, as in a filing system or database architecture. How does an archive negotiate these opposite demands?

This lecture will examine these implications, first briefly with respect to earlier systems of recording and archiving, then by more closely analysing the philosophy and technology of digital archiving and analysis.


  • Chaudhuri, Bichira: The Making of an Online Tagore Variorum, Springer, 2016
  • J. Finneran, A. Arbor (eds), The Literary Text in the Digital Age, University of Michigan Press, 1996
  • Proust, Swann’s Way, trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff, 1928; rpt New York, Random House, 1956


Talk 2:

“Archives as living practices: mutations and evolutions of a diachronic, dynamic, dialogic device”

Benedetta Zaccarello, Senior Researcher CNRS (CEFRES)

More than twenty years have passed since the publication of the famous and eponymous essay by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, and the “Archive Fever” is still very high in contemporary cultures. Considered more and more as a precious heritage and a tool preserve the memory of a retrospectively imagined past, archives became as well an indispensable tool to stabilize the representation that we foster of the present and a pledge on how the future readers will look back at “us”. Nowadays present in our everyday life, private or public, digital or material, on the make or institutional, archives became something familiar not only for professional scholars.

But what do we call with this name? What have in common very different sets of collections, technologies and forms of classification that we are open to label as “archives”? How can we stretch the notion enough for it to encompass non-European forms of archives as well as the traditional, post-romantic institutions that are more commonly referred to with this word?

The “archival turn” taught us to read behind the documents the cultural, epistemological and political bias structuring the archive. Still, archives evolve in time, change form and perimeter, and respond to needs of different public across time and spaces.

This talk proposes to understand this notion as a function rather than a static object and to question the archive as a set of practices rather than as an institution or a collection of documents. Such “dynamic” ontology of the archive may help in understanding that the cultural construction is constantly at work in the archive, notably in what concerns its relation to the public and to the technologies that mediate it. Moreover, this approach will enable us to question the archive as a transforming and interactive dispositive, if not an “organic” device.


  • -M. De Biasi, “Pour une génétique généralisée : l’approche des processus à l’âge numérique”, dans Genesis n°30, p. 163-175, 2010
  • Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1996
  • Didi Huberman, Des images malgré tout, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 2004
  • Mbembe, The Power of the Archive and its Limits, Dordrecht/Boston/London, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002


 Talk 3:

“Valorising Subaltern History, Knowledge and Heritage for a Convivial Future: Some Personal Reflections from Trysts with Artisanal Fishers

John Kurien, Visiting Professor, the Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.

This talk is part of a larger and incomplete process of searching, reflecting and sharing based on the last four decades of interacting with artisanal fishers from different countries. The experiences which I have encountered were made in different capacities — as an employee of the fishers; as an activist-academic; as a network facilitator; and as a reflective development practitioner. I have come to understand the need to re-discover and valorise the history, knowledge and heritage of fishers – a subaltern group — to move towards a convivial future – both for them and for all of us. 

Selected references

Kurien, J. (1990). Knowledge Systems and Fishery Resource Decline: A Historical Perspective, In Lenz W and Deacon M, (1990). Ocean Sciences: Their History and Relation to Man – Proceedings of the 4th International Congress on the History of Oceanography, Hamburg, 1987.

Panipilla R. (2015). Eyes On Their Fingertips: Some Aspects of the Arts, Science, Technology and Culture of the Fisherfolk of Trivandrum, India. ICSF Occasional Paper, Chennai. Retrieved from: https://www.icsf.net/en/occasional-papers/article/EN/149-Some-Aspects-of.html

Gillet P, (1985) Small is Difficult: The Pangs and Success of Small Boat Technology Transfer in South India, ITDG, UK. Retrieved from: http://www.siffs.org/Books/SmallisDifficult.pdf

Ivan, I. (1973) Tools for Conviviality. Retrieved from https://arl.human.cornell.edu/linked%20docs/Illich_Tools_for_Conviviality.pdf

Pohl, H. (2007).  From the Kattumaram to the Fibre-Teppa – changes in the Boatbuilding Traditions on India’s East Coast.  The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Vol 36 (2).   Retrieved from:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227846540_From_the_Kattumaram_to_the_Fibre-Teppa-Changes_in_Boatbuilding_Traditions_on_India’s_East_Coast

Vetter Andrea, (2017). The Matrix of Convivial Technology: Assessing technologies for degrowth. In Journal of Cleaner Production, Elsevier Retrieved from: http://konvivialetechnologien.blogsport.de/images/Vetter_JcP2017_MatrixConvivialTechnology.pdf

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