Diasporic Archives and Hauntological Accretions

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May Chew


Centering on two recent participatory archive projects, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn’s The Making of An Archive (2014-present), and Regent Park Film Festival’s Home Made Visible (2017-2019), this essay examines how diasporic archives “densify” authoritative records, and allow us to think generatively about archival movements and accretions. Both projects gathered and digitised archives from members of diasporic and racialised communities. Through public calls and workshops soliciting amateur archivists’ personal and familial still and moving image troves, these projects prioritised excavating and inscribing quotidian and ephemeral records as a response to Canadian multiculturalism’s imposed silences. The essay approaches diaspora – and diasporic archives – not (just) through rubrics of loss and obsolescence, but through the concept of hauntological thickening, arguing that these two projects intervene on authoritative and singular archival narratives by densifying the latter with occluded histories, affects, and textural traces of transfer. It also examines how quotidian visual records offer hauntological refractions of official narratives, and become vehicles for imbrications of personal, familial, and national histories and discourses. Finally, the essay concludes with an exploration of how the archives engage audiences through affective and sensorial registers. 

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