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Panel Discussion: “Digital Forays: Rewind, Repeat, Rehash: History, Materiality And ‘Digital Colonialism’”

December 3, 2020 | 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


Even TeenVogue gets it: “if you take away imperial plunder, what else do you [the art world] have to offer?” Yet then how do we make sense of a 3D life-sized reconstruction of the arches of Palmyra, destroyed by ISIS, but now on a tour through Western Capitals as a spectacle reclaimed through digital methods? We lament the “loss” of this heritage – but we laude the tools that helped us “preserve” and recreate it. The Middle East is continually framed as a space where archeological/heritage sites aren’t preserved.. All the while the past is being reconstructed, mediated, and circulated by new tools, models, visualizations – and digitized by what often amounts to new practices firmly grounded in the same shadows: Orientalist tropes and (neo)colonalist methods.


If we conceded that “digitization is not repatriation,” how might this work the other way in an increasing “post-custodial” model of Western Museums & Archives? If a large (resource rich) library goes to Yemen (“endangered archive”) to digitize a collection, but then extracts those files under terms of co-ownership, how do we understand and place this in histories of Colonialism, Orientalism, and the false premise of digitization=democratization? On the other hand, can this allow for meaningful preservation in archives that are falling into disarray? This panel will open up a space to think critically about the digital tools and approaches of heritage making in the region. Digital technologies can shroud and conceal other profits, motives, and lurking tropes from eras’s past – this week we explore 3 perspectives on digital tools that are making possible what we mourn, preserve, and remember.


Join the Kevorkian Center with panelists: Saima Akhtar (Independent Scholar), Morehshin Allahyari (Artist), Roopika Risam (Salem State University) – and Discussant Nanna Bonde Thylstrup (Copenhagen Business School) to think through these questions and discuss together issues of materiality and ‘digital colonialism.’


More information and register.


Organized by the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University. Co-sponsored by: NYU Program in Museum Studies; Grey Art NYU Gallery; and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

New York University


December 3, 2020
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
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