Temi Odumosu: The Crying Baby: On Colonial Archives, Digitisation, and Ethics of Care in the Cultural Commons

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Temi Odumosu, Senior Lecturer in Art History, K3. The title of the talk is:

The Crying Baby: On Colonial Archives, Digitisation, and Ethics of Care in the Cultural Commons

It will take place on Wednesday, November 14 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara

Here is an abstract for the talk:

This seminar sketches key concerns I am engaged with in a new speculative paper I am writing for Current Anthropology on representational ethics and care. In essence I am concerned about attending to the dead in the digital commons. I argue that as museums, archives and other cultural heritage institutions make their colonial collections digitally available online – providing direct public access to troubling and contested materials – unresolved representational issues are magnified and new dangers emerge. If digitised artefacts represent a form of remembrance, ensuring that artefacts are not forgotten in storage (a solution to decay), then what shifts in institutional practices could take place, if we asked questions such as:

  • What does it mean for an archive or collection to provide open digital access to materials representing violated subjects who did not necessarily consent to being documented?
  • To what extent are institutions taking seriously non-European perspectives on looking at, or engaging with, ancestor remains?
  • How can we better understand the effects of unmediated, screen-based engagement with the material outcomes of biased and racist value systems?
  • And, how can we extend concepts of caretaking and custodianship beyond the institutionally directed ethical guidelines, currently provided by professional advocacy institutions?

Exploring what an ethics of care and/or custodianship might look like when engaging with such questions, this seminar seeks to provoke critical dialogue about the delicacies of caretaking colonial histories both on and offline – histories rife with carelessness. At the same time, I explore reparatory artistic engagements with such digitised images, and further describe how metadata might be rethought as a cataloguing space with the potential to alter the imbalances of historical power.

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