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The Archival Platform is preparing a report on archival activism in South Africa

The Archival Platform is preparing a research report which deals with the contribution of archive activists to the promotion of human rights and to archival practice. It will spell out the scope, state and impact of archival activism since the early 1990s and consider how, when and why the archive has been mobilised by archival and related practitioners in support of struggles for social justice. This report will be publicly available, widely distributed and promoted through a high-level media campaign.

The report on archival activism will complement the State of the Archives analysis, providing a companion piece that will enrich debates around civil society archives and the work that they do in South African society. The State of the Archives analysis reveals a national archival system in trouble. Good work is being done but only in isolated pockets. There is no overarching policy framework for archives beyond that implicit in national and provincial legislation. The vision of the 1990s has evaporated. Chronic underfunding and lack of resources is ubiquitous. The political will required to change things is largely absent. The system, simply put, is not delivering. In the face of these problems within the national archival system the work done by archive activists is crucial.

What do we mean by the term ‘archival activsm’? The project team define ‘archival activism’ as “The mobilising of archive by archival and related practitioners in support of struggles for social justice.” This working definition is being assessed with project participants as work proceeds and may be revised in the course of the project.

Bearing the afrorementioned definition of ‘archive activism’ in mind, the project team have agreed that the report will be framed around five key thematic areas:

Theme 1: Archival institutions / organisations / initiatives that mobilise the archive in support of struggles for social justice in the public interest.

Theme 2: Archival institutions / organisatons / initiatives that mobilise the archive in support of struggles for social justice for particular communities (however these may be defined).

Theme 3: Institutions / organisations / initiatives that mobilise the archive and memory for ‘wound work’.

Theme 4: Institutions / organisations / initiatives that hold custody of sites / objects / documentary records or collections related to activism (the archive of activists or activism) that may, from time to time, be activated in support of particular struggles for justice.

Theme 5: Institutions/organisations/initiatives that address ‘gaps’ in the archive by actively documenting, collecting or acquiring records that may, at some point, be mobilised in support of struggles for social justice.

The thematic chapters will be framed by an overarching introduction, written by Verne Harris, that sets out the key issues and conceptual underpinnings and a conclusion

The project will be overseen and directed by members of the Archival Platform Steering Committee: Professor Carolyn Hamilton, Verne Harris, Dr. Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Dr. Noel Solani and Professor Njabulo Ndebele. Jo-Anne Duggan will lead the research and writing team: Dr. Anthea Josias, Dr. Theresa Edlmann and Dr. KatieMooney.

If you are interested in drawing our attention to initiatives that might be mentioned in this report please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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