Irene Hilden, "Absent Presences in the Colonial Archive: Dealing with the Berlin Sound Archive's Acoustic Legacies" (Leuven UP, 2022)


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Dealing with the colonial archive entails acknowledging the inability to know everything, accounting for the archive’s limited and incomplete condition. Dealing with the colonial archive is not merely about stories of the past but also about the history of the present, and how it is interrupted by the past. — Irene Hilden, in conversation with New Books Network.

With a firm commitment to postcolonial scholarship, Absent Presences in the Colonial Archive: Dealing with the Berlin Sound Archive's Acoustic Legacies (Leuven University Press, 2022) presents a historical ethnography of a metropolitan institution that participated in the production and preservation of colonial structures of power and knowledge.

This book examines sound objects and listening practices that render the coloniality of knowledge fragile and inconsistent, revealing the absent presences of colonial subjects who are given little or no place in established national narratives and collective memories. Based on research at the Berlin Sound Archive (Lautarchiv), which consists of an extensive collection of sound recordings compiled for scientific purposes in the first half of the 20th century, Irene Hilden engages with the archive by focusing on recordings produced under colonial conditions.

This publication is available as a free ebook at OAPEN Library, JSTOR, Project Muse, and Open Research Library.

Jen Hoyer is Technical Services and Electronic Resources Librarian at CUNY New York City College of Technology and a volunteer at Interference Archive. She is co-author of What Primary Sources Teach: Lessons for Every Classroom and The Social Movement Archive.

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