This workshop aims at bringing together historians working on colonial history, in order to discuss the problematics of engaging textual, visual, and material sources, and further develop our analytical strategies for locating voices of marginalised ‘others’.

The question of how to write history ‘from the bottom up’ has been on the minds of social, feminist, and postcolonial historians since the 1960s. Strategies for studying textual sources held in institutional archives were developed in order to read these archives ‘against the grain’. However, Stoler has highlighted the importance of reading colonial archives ‘along the grain’ before examining the voices of ‘others’ represented in these archives (Stoler 2009). Roque and Wagner propose a third distinct reading strategy, which derives from historical anthropology and is concerned with the actual cross-cultural encounters and material practices in which colonial knowledge is embedded. In this reading strategy, colonial accounts are considered intercultural objects emerging from the encounter between Europeans and non-Europeans. Hence, colonial accounts can be used as avenues to gaining access to these historical encounters (Roque and Wagner 2012).

These three reading strategies, alternative or complementary as they might be, indicate the directions in which we can engage with colonial materials in historical research. How and to what extent do we integrate these new developments and approaches into our research? Which strategies do we apply in collecting, reading and analysing sources in order to write history from the bottom up? And, on a more practical level, how do we apply our reading strategies. That is, how do we read along or against the grain or how do we locate and interpret cultural encounters in the sources?

The focus will not solely be on the textual. An analysis of visual and material culture provides the opportunity to critically engaging with other realms of knowledge as well. Visual and material culture are part and parcel of everyday life, and form a constitutive force in social interactions and in creating social positions (Auslander 2005). When it comes to analysing visual and material culture, Jordanova criticises the idea that we can simply transplant modes of analysis from textual to visual and material sources. n her opinion, the idea of ‘reading’ a visual or material source is too limited, as this would imply that there are messages that can be decoded unproblematically (Jordanova 2012). How, then, should we analyse visual and material sources? What do different types of sources have to offer? How do we combine the textual, visual, and/or material? Does Jordanova’s criticism apply to textual sources as well? And do we perhaps assume too easily that there are messages to be decoded in our quest for ‘other’ voices or perspectives in colonial sources?

The aim is to bring together 6-8 scholars who submit a paper of approximately 4,000 words as well as another 12-14 scholars who want to engage with us without presenting a paper, as they have a particular interest in this subject and want to exchange experiences with fellow researchers. Those submitting a paper are invited and encouraged to write and reflect on their own experiences with engaging colonial knowledge and institutional archives. At least one case study of a source or archive needs to be included. Prior to the workshop, all papers will be shared and all participants are expected to study them. During the workshop, these papers will be discussed. Every participant will act as a discussant in order to stimulate critical interaction.

Key note speaker: Dr. Kim Wagner (Queen Mary University of London)

Date: Friday 29th of August 2014
Time: 10.00 a.m. – 18.00 p.m.
Venue: Radboud University Nijmegen, Erasmusplein 1, E 2.18

Abstracts (ca. 300 words) of a paper can be send before 1 April 2014 to Maaike Derksen and Margriet Fokken: workshop.lvmo@

For further information, please contact one of the organisers: Margriet Fokken (RU Groningen): or Maaike Derksen (RU Nijmegen):

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