Archives of the Disappeared: Discipline and Method Amidst Ruin [2019-20]

Alternate Wednesdays 14.30 - 16.30 during term, unless otherwise noted.

Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT


Archives of the Disappeared is an interdisciplinary research initiative for the study and documentation of communities, social movements, spaces, lifeworlds, literatures and cultures that have been destroyed through acts of political repression and mass violence. Through a reading group, seminars and master classes, as well as lectures by scholars, artists, archivists, and community activists, the initiative will explore the question of ‘archive’ in the context of annihilation.

Researchers rely on empirical and/or textual analysis where finding ‘evidence’ is a core methodological objective. However, evidence can and is erased by perpetrators, be they states, colonial powers or otherwise, through a myriad of tactics, including the denial of culpability and the rejection of attempts at accountability. This initiative addresses the challenges of scholarly, archival, and documentary practices in the context of elimination and loss. How does one document or analyse that which has been erased or disappeared? Where and how is such knowledge stored? We will discuss frameworks and methodologies for the study of traces, ruins, documents, accounts, utterances, silences, memories, and imaginaries left behind. We will explore how scholars, social movements, and artists from communities that were made to disappear have created new kinds of archives, new genres of evidentiary practice, and new techniques of documentation. Finally, we will look at how this knowledge of absence can prompt scholars to rethink epistemologies, methodologies and disciplinary practices within the humanities and social sciences.

Throughout the 2019 - 2020 academic year, the Archives of the Disappeared Research Initiative will organise reading sessions, seminars, lectures, a working papers series, and master classes.


To join the mailing list, receive readings, announcements, and event updates, please contact: Mezna Qato

Sponsored by CRASSH and The Margaret Anstee Centre for Global Studies, Newnham College, at the University of Cambridge


Administrative assistance:



Mezna Qato (Anstee Research Fellow, Newnham College, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge)
Yael Navaro (Fellow of Newnham College, Reader in the Anthropology of Politics, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
Chana Morgenstern (Fellow of Newnham College, Lecturer in Postcolonial and Middle Eastern Literatures, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge)
Mahvish Ahmad (AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape)


Faculty Advisors

Manali Desai (Reader in Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge)
Ruba Salih (Reader in Anthropology and Gender Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)

Programme 2019-20


Archives of the Disappeared
Erasure: Palestine (Introductory Seminar)
09 October 2019, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT
Archival Turns
23 October 2019, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

  Reading Group Session

Archive and Annihilation
06 November 2019, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Reading Group Session

RELOCATED Genocide and Archives
26 November 2019, Audit Room, King's College, King's Parade CB2 1ST Cambridge. NB Different venue.

Silvina Der Meguerditchian (The houshamadyan project)

RELOCATED Archive and Enslavement
04 December 2019, Keynes Hall, King's College, King's Parade CB2 1ST. NB Different venue

Reading Group Session