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Unheard Voices and Forms of Cultural Memory? Oral History and the Postcolon...

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University of Manchester

University Place, Room 6.206

Manchester

M13 9TG

United Kingdom

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Workshop by Indira Chowdhury. Organised by Jerome de Groot for 'Double-Helix History', @doublehelixhist. Sponsored by Ancestry.com

This workshop draws on my attempts over the last decade and a half to create archives of different institutions and organisations in the context of oral history work undertaken in India. This presentation argues that the conceptual consequences of colonialism which defined Indians as being steeped in backward traditions and lacking in history need to be kept in mind when trying to assemble an archive of a formerly colonised people. Reflecting on my interviews with snake charmers in central India who claimed they knew nothing about snakes, with “folk” artists who sing about 9/11 and my conversations with a “terrifying” extortionist who became a school teacher, I shall attempt here to present the paradoxical nature of our relationship with the past in the Indian context. I argue that the insights gained from interacting with “unheard voices” also enable us to understand elite oral histories from Indian institutions. The foundations of academic disciplines that shaped the way Indian institutions relate to the past are often reinforced and even reincarnated through contemporary state interventions in education and development. In what ways do new forms of historical representation incorporate older forms of cultural memory and oral traditions? This presentation will attempt to show how we might re-understand the idea of collecting an oral history archive and the critical ways in which we might interpret its contents within a postcolonial context.

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University of Manchester

University Place, Room 6.206

Manchester

M13 9TG

United Kingdom

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