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Dr. Alia Mossallam on archival practices at ZMO

News vom 11.07.2018

On the 13 June 2018, three researchers will address questions on expert knowledge, resources and progress which might not only be relevant to the research fields Progress: Ideas, Practices, Symbols and The Politics of Resources. As you will see from the titles and abstracts, they address issues around the role of (military) experts in projects of social progress (Joshua Rogers), about appropriating and conserving nature as a form of societal/global advancement (Juliane Schumacher) and large scale projects such as the Aswan High Dam which affected and still affects in an irreversible way natural surroundings and poeples lives (Alia Mossallam).

The panel will start at 10am in the main hall.


Alia Mossallam (PhD, Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, FU and Forum Tranregional Studies, Berlin)

"What happens when the river stops flowing? Sounds of progress and vanished lands - a look into the archiving practices of Nubian communities displaced by the Aswan High Dam in 1964"

The Aswan High Dam (1960-1971), built at a moment of high modernism and anti-colonial struggle - toiled with more than just the flow of the Nile waters. The Dam structured narrative around it, channeled the progress of history towards industry and modernism, built a trajectory of knowledge production and expertise that flowed directly from Ancient Egyptian to Islamic Nile management technologies, and chiseled of Aswan a station and emblem of this ‘transformation’ of the new Egyptian (wo)/man. Official photographic archives of the Ministry of the Dam in the 1960s depict this transformation through vast landscapes of desert transformed into construction sites; tunnels carved out of the mountains to accommodate turbines; and a wild flowing river diverted from one trajectory into another. “This is Socialism” these pictures announce, “This is modernity”.

But just as the Dam built; it destroyed. Inundated Nubian villages include the ‘backward’ history the Dam tried to efface and drown in order for these trajectories to hold together. 50 Nubian villages and 100,0000 Nubians were displaced - 50,000 to Sudan and 50,000 into Egypt, North of Aswan. In this talk, we will look at how Nubian communities use both music and visual archives to commemorate that which is no longer there - a flowing river, and a disappeared way of life. We will listen to their articulation and understanding of the promises of progress - before the displacement - and how they struggled with their new circumstances, and documented that struggle after the move.

What do popular historiographic practices (in this case music and visual archives) provide us of these silenced experiences? What forms of knowledge do they represent? What kind of new vocabulary do they lend us for an understanding and an articulation of the cost and the experience of progress


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