Call for Papers – workshop The SECRET POLICE ARCHIVES – Interdisciplinary Approaches

Workshop: The SECRET POLICE ARCHIVES – Interdisciplinary Approaches
Date of workshop: May 11, 2012
Date of Exhibition: May 4 – 19, 2012
Location: PLATFORMA space (part of National Museum of Contemporary Art Annex, Calea Moşilor 62-68, 1st floor, Bucharest)
Institutional Partners:
Ioana Macrea-Toma, Research Associate at Central European University (Budapest), Fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
Cristina Anisescu, project coordinator, the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS)
Iosif Király, guest curator, Associate Professor, Photo Video Department, National University of Arts, Bucharest (UNAB)
PLATFORMA project (hosted by the National Museum of Contemporary Art – MNAC Annex), represented by 2 of the group members: Simona Dumitriu (Lecturer, UNAB) and Bogdan Bordeianu (PhD. Student, teaching assistant, UNAB)

Application format and deadline: Please email a 300 word abstract plus institutional affiliation and short bio to the following email address by April 6, 2012.

Different debates have accompanied the transitional process of the opening and of the access to the sensitive archives belonging to the former Secret Police. Despite the different national historiographical contexts, discussions have been generally focused on the moral-political entanglements and hardships of the institutionalization of lustration, alongside polemics concerning the validity of the data contained within the file. Legal undertakings oriented towards verdicts concerning human rights trespassing have thus been carried within a divided discursive environment, either discarding facts from the files or relying upon them. The oppositional sidelines are, however, underpinned by an expected or negated truth-value conveyed by the documents, who still enjoy an inverted or ultimate authority for the reconstruction of a life (hi)story. Used for legal claims, moral-political screening or historical undertakings, the files retain a validity which, even if contested, incorporates an emotional feed-back loop, continuously bringing them under scrutiny.
The urge of bringing about a new reflexive perspective on the records of the former secret police hasn’t been articulated within a specific debate so far. By bringing together researchers and artists interested in the recent past we attempt not only to accommodate insights from different disciplines, but also to disrupt epistemic routines when dealing with the records of a repressive apparatus. Instead of a questioning of the facts, we encourage analyses of the texts as bureaucratic artifacts. Instead of approaching the files as inconsistent accounts ready to be filled in, we enhance a dialogue on their ready-made message embedded within complex technologies of surveillance. Instead of using the classificatory symbolic lenses of the police, amounting to constructing individual or group objectives, we are looking forward to displacing and rearranging data and evidence, thus crossing file boundaries through series of surveillance photos and interviews.

The workshop is open to phd students and scholars in the humanities and social sciences, researchers, legal experts and artists interested in history, archival theory and practice, material culture, media theory, Cold War, transitional justice. The discussions are intended as part and complement of a larger multi-media interrogation on the Secret Police files.

The event is thus composed of a workshop and an exhibition, the latter displaying materials from the secret police files set along individual cases and medial series. Recorded interviews with people who have seen their files will constitute the life-story counterpart to the operative patchwork of the secret police. The workshop and the exhibition are organized by a team of university affiliated or individual researchers, working within the “Platforma” project supported by the National Museum of Contemporary Art (Bucharest) and collaborating with the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS) and National University of Arts Bucharest (UNAB).

The event will be held in Romanian and English.
Submissions of proposals for the workshop related (but not limited) to the following questions are warmly welcomed:
What is the specificity of an archive of a secret police in a communist country?
What differences could be found in communist countries of Eastern Europe?
What type of research has so far been inspired by these archival sources?
How did information-gathering systems worked within Communism and what is the role of technology and networking?
What is the role of the surveillance images and how can they be integrated in a visual epistemological system?
What kind of historical narrative can one build from the de-constructed, re-interpreted or re-enacted file?
The archive is an important topic for artistic practice and research. How can these practices and the historical perspective on sources be integrated within a meta-methodological approach to the archive, the file and the historical document?   

Prospective participants are advised to envisage their intervention within one of the three proposed panels:
I. The history of the archive and current institutional status within transitional justice practices
II. [Alternative] Methodologies at work: expertise in reading and interpreting files
III. Meta-discourses on archives (of Communism) and surveillance information systems


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