Imagining Futures is created by participatory co-design from the outset. At its core, it seeks to engender change that contributes towards inclusive societies and sustainable peace through the establishment of a network of equitable partnerships, a reflective research agenda, and bottom-up activities. The Network and the intersection of academic and non-academic knowledge that will co-produce the parameters of egalitarian archival practice and scope of dissensus methodologies are the engine of Imagining Futures. Our large team may seem disparate. On the contrary, it stems from years of knowledge-sharing and integrative work in-situ with researchers, practitioners in and outside of organisations, whose imagination, commitment and trust are paramount in shaping this project and the realisation of its aims. All activities emerged from local needs, draw on and speak to local practices, which are guided by our in-country experts, partners, co-Is and their networks. Our work converges on the specific contexts of post-conflict, reconstruction and displacement, the focus of investigations in Labs and Open-Call Commissions, and the sites of our primary beneficiaries, where the project seeks to have its most substantial impact, specifically: Tanzania, Ghana, Lebanon, South Africa ¬and when possible, Syria (see ODA statement). Here our primary stakeholders are: a) diverse groups within recovering communities in past and present conflict zones; b) organisations, communities and enterprises within contexts of displacement; c) government and supra-state organisations engaged with people who are in conflict areas or displaced.
Archival practices as part of memory, heritage and place-making are linked to social capital and political-power. The project exploits this link to enhance benefit and suppress harm by using the potential of egalitarian archiving practices to expose multiple, divergent, overwritten narratives that are inclusive, and counteract simplistic, authoritarian, ‘right’ narratives. We address this by creating physical and conceptual spaces for open dialogue that increase participation and encourage a broader cross-section of archival custodianship. This involves accessibility by stakeholders to currently closed/ suppressed/ overwritten archives, and the ability for self-archiving, which will be supported through co-designed activities, expertise and training. We also seek to draw the attention of policy makers to the value of non-traditional narratives and archival practices, and their link to social-capital. Our activities and commissions will provide material, articulate methodologies and exemplify how such practise can contribute to reducing inter- and intra-community conflict and thus enhance the potential for sustainable peace (SDG 11, 16). These will be synthesised in a ‘Manifesto’ for egalitarian archiving practice, created with and disseminated to multiple stakeholders. Among these will be those responsible for framing policies of preservation and reconstruction, to ensure that strategies don’t de-stabilise but, through incorporating local knowledge of what is of value, work towards socially-conscious solutions. Our framework – dependent on co-production and long-standing dialogue – will enhance buy-in, raising the potential for constructive and lasting impact.
Our work is underpinned by a robust ethics and safe-guarding policy, embedded gender-equality practices, as well as supportive training, mentoring and reporting processes. The infrastructure for the project includes investment in communication and accessibility through funding of mobility, translation capabilities, a web platform (with updates blogs and showcasing, see Visuals attached), and digitisation opportunities along with appropriate storage and data-sharing. This will ensure localised impact will have potential for global reach. The strongest possibilities for meaningful impact will emerge out of our work on the ground, as from our Pilot in Tanzania (see Visuals attached), that led to partnership with Lindi Regional Commission. Their Letter of Support sums up the stakeholder’s perspective on the project’s potential for long term impact, on regional revitalisation, enriched opportunities for youth and women through innovative approaches to heritage and pedagogy: “..even at this early stage of the project, the community has been directly touched and so without any doubt we believe that working together.. will have a lasting impact to the Lindi region..as demonstrated by the way the Lindi community was actively engaged particularly the youth and women, the region has high hope that this project has come at the right time..This partnership will contribute to the re-opening of the southern corridor which was once a hub..and act as a unit for dialogue and knowledge sharing..the digitization of our tangible and intangible heritage and its dissemination to schools we believe will be a breakthrough and a good teaching aid for future generation.”
Through site-specific Labs and Commissions we will pursue pathways towards various Impact Strands. Outputs and outcomes will result from: Establishing a collective understanding of egalitarian archiving practices and associated dissensus methodologies; co-creating tools to implement these and evaluate their transferability; compiling findings on their potential to enhance cohesion,
inclusivity, growth and ultimately conflict-prevention. The impact of this activity will be: increased awareness; development of shared knowledge; development of critical research questions for the network; engagement with local community; enhanced opportunities for change in attitudes/behaviour through the creation of physical and virtual spaces for dialogue; building local capacity and incorporating local knowledge and perceptions into national and international memorialisation practices. Anticipated outcomes and impact from the Labs are (excluding academic ones listed in other application sections):
Lab 1: Tanzania
A) A film on the MajiMaji War conveying what is memorialised from the perspective of victims and descendants, allowing for telling of their own history. The film will be made relevant for distribution to culture and learning institutions; B) Teaching aids – textual and audio-visual, incorporating multi-vocal narratives and users’ own creations, to enhance modes of learning history beyond single dominant narratives; C) Partnerships to enhance possibility for archival access in Ndanda and Peramiho. Digitisation of accessible materials, for deposition and ethically-informed open access; D) Activation of historic sites for a Future Memory Culture centre in collaboration with Lindi region (which may host the exhibitions of the project e.g. from work with Baddawi Camp Lab 2); E) Creations from self-archiving processes and memory-site activation, and lasting co-created repositories for them working with the LDRC.
Lab 2: Baddawi Camp
This Lab, in 3 intersecting studies with the Tanzania Lab, uses the shared explorations of trauma landscapes, precarity and displacement, as well as historic Lebanon-Africa interconnections, to operationalise project aims, through: A) Exhibitions of photographic materials from Tanzania in Baddawi camp, and outcomes of the dialogue between prison and bomb-shelter. B) Activation of memory-sites, the PLO bomb-shelters. C) Outcomes of collaborative archiving, workshops, photo, digital and writing sessions will depend on what is deemed most appropriate and desirable. Already the project pilot has produced creative writings and new perspectives on memory-sites in the Camp (Qasmiyeh 2019).
Lab 3: Ghana
The results of the Lab activities will be A) Packaged and disseminated using a dialogical approach, through gatherings, photographic and digital exhibitions, social media, community radio and television programmes. B) Include discussion programmes on conflict management and peace-building, operationalised through existing collaborations with TV 3, 3-FM, Ghana Television, GBC Radio and TV Africa. C) Develop a publicly accessible digital repository with metadata of key study elements with LDRC. We will also work closely to facilitate digitisation with the Tanzania Lab and project partners. D) Re/Activation of sites and stories, which through the project’s inter-linked multi-site approach will allow communities to realise multiplicity of coastal narratives and their positioning in a wider global context.
Lab 4: Beirut
The Lab seeks to re-read the city-as-archive ‘against the grain’, resulting in: A) Masterplans being sought out, collected, recorded, re-imagined, and activated as sites of engagement with multiple stakeholders, through; B) tours, exhibitions, performance and recording, to enable wider accessibility to materials and the propagation of public awareness, alongside the gathering and dissemination of non-archived materials and narratives; C) Initiatives that open up parts of the city to highlight divergent narratives through multiple archival processes and develop future imaginaries across diverse sectors of the city’s inhabitants and authorities.