Creating Space in the Archive for an Anti-oppressive Community Project: Recording Border Control and Subversion

Article


Hashem, R. 2021. Creating Space in the Archive for an Anti-oppressive Community Project: Recording Border Control and Subversion. Displaced Voices: A Journal of Archives, Migration and Cultural Heritage. 2 (1), pp. 74-81. https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.898y6
AuthorsHashem, R.
Abstract

Archives exist to record and preserve documents on historical and contemporary events, official and unpublished reports, collective memories, political narratives, and personal and unofficial documents including letters and other materials that embrace memories that could be otherwise lost. Archives also have the power to present a narrative “determined by the evidence that has survived, and “to empower a certain representation through the use of language” (Dudman and Hashem, 2015). Most archives preserve documents, but not many archives could make available the recorded documents to their users. Refugee Council Archives are one of those that made available documents when needed.2 However, the dilemma is, as notes the archivist Paul Dudman, that only some of us could access the archives. Most archives in the UK had failed the displaced in terms of representation when recording documents on immigration legislation, border control, resilience and subversion within the nation-state (Dudman, 2014). 3 How can the displaced be “re-installed on the historical record"? Casba Szilagyi correctly notes when writing about the experiences of refugees globally and the role of archivists in the sector that the Refugee Archives have particularly important roles in recording, creating, disseminating, “managing, preserving, authenticating and making available records documenting historical and contemporary” experiences of the displaced people and those on the move (2020:150). According to the Archives Hub database, there are several other archives in addition to the Refugee Council Archives for documenting lives of the displaced which co-exists in London and beyond. But who accesses these archives? Are refugee archives well-represented as regards to the preservation of lived experience of refugees and migrants? If not, why is this? Who get excluded from refugee-archives, and in what ways? How could we improve access to refugee research archives? Could archives be a creative space for undertaking anti-oppressive, accessible and representative research projects for and with the people in displacement?

The above are some questions that we explored at the Refugee Council Archives through the collaboration of and working on a community project with refugees and irregular migrants prior to Brexit, in 2015. The project entitled, “Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion? Civic Engagement through the Preservation of and Access to Refugee Archives,” was supported by the Library, Archives and Learning Services of the University of East London (UEL).4 In this article, I discuss how the project helped us to establish a successful collaboration with migrant communities in London, enabled the creation of an anti-oppressive space for documenting narratives of resilience and subversion, and made possible the development of a Living Refugee Archive which help preserve the narratives and make accessible the archives to all, including the displaced people globally. I also show how the project ensured representation of people in displacement within the archive.

JournalDisplaced Voices: A Journal of Archives, Migration and Cultural Heritage
Journal citation2 (1), pp. 74-81
ISSN2633-2396
Year2021
PublisherLiving Refugee Archive, University of East London
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Anyone
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.898y6
Publication dates
OnlineJun 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited09 Jul 2021
Copyright holder© 2021 The Author
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