15 Jan 2010 - 16 Jan 2010 All day CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge


Conference registration is now closed.


Chris Kaplonski (University of Cambridge)
Catherine Trundle (Victoria University of Wellington)

Keynote speakers

Ann Stoler (Anthropology, New School NY)
Retracing the Imperial Modern: The Carceral Archipelago of Empire

Christopher Andrew (History, Cambridge)
The use and non-use of classified archives with particular reference to MI5






Conference summary


Documents are rarely finished. They may be amended, added to or censored. They come to be refilled, misfiled or transformed into new technological formats, and they can be distributed, withdrawn or elevated to iconic status. Documents stored within archives, databases and state files are particularly potent as political tools. Often imbued with new, unintended meanings over time, they can become testimonies, symbols of memory or legal evidence. In a range of contexts, this conference will trace the political, technological and social genealogies of such documents as they are manipulated, and come to be agents in their own right, within public spaces.

Documents are powerful ‘artifacts of modern knowledge’ (Riles 2006: 5), ubiquitous in modern society. This conference aims to ask: How is access to documents that stockpile or conceal personal and collective ‘data’ being negotiated in the public sphere, and how are ideas of ‘the commons’ and ‘privacy’ being reconfigured in the process? Furthermore, how do such documents engage in political struggles, not just as tools of legitimacy, but as powerful affective focal points of outrage, nostalgia or apathy? Finally, speakers are invited to consider how academic analyses of such documents acts to reify, transform or place into public circulation such objects, perhaps with unintended, ethically complex consequences.

Delegate notice

Conference delegates can find information about accommodation in Cambridge at the following URLs:
NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of delegate accommodation.

Conference sponsors

The conference organisers are grateful to The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at the University of Cambridge.


Administrative assistance: Anna Malinowska (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk