Silence in/of Archives: Absence, Erasure, Censorship, and Archival Politics

Silence in/of Archives: Absence, Erasure, Censorship, and Archival Politics

Mahshid Mayar (University of Bielefeld); European Network in Universal and Global History (ENIUGH)
From - Until
02.05.2019 - 01.07.2019
Mahshid Mayar

Silence in/of Archives: Absence, Erasure, Censorship, and Archival Politics

Panel Proposed by: Mahshid Mayar, Bielefeld University, Germany
Event: 6th European Congress on World and Global History (ENIUGH)
Theme: “Minorities, Cultures of Integration and Patterns of Exclusion”
Date and Venue: June 25-28, 2020, Turku, Finland

As we look for a long-gone document or contribute to digitization projects, as we page through redacted documents such as the Mueller Report, and directly linked to our 21st-century concerns over saving the archive from centuries of systematic exclusion, silencing, and censorship, one most pressing question arises:

What defines the historical archive: the range of documents it holds? The traces found in its margins as they point to what might be missing from or taken out of its collections? Or, the ways it provides access to the unlabelled and the displaced and earmarks the excluded and the erased?

To be proposed to the 6th European Congress on World and Global History (ENIUGH) on “Minorities, Cultures of Integration and Patterns of Exclusion,” this panel proposal invites contributions by (art, cultural, social, global, transnational) historians of all periods and archivists whose research and work in the archives tend to the politics and patterns of marginalization in the archive and examine archival practices that uphold silence and denigrate the silenced. While silence has long been understood in post-colonial studies as a condition of the (neo-)colonized, the panel aims at broadening this perspective as historians

- subscribe to a more nuanced understanding of silence as both subordination/minoritization and privilege/protection;
- make sense of silence and silencing as either programmatic or pragmatic (and not as accidental);
- examine the silence as temporarily imposed on politically sensitive classified documents as far from silencing and disempowering -- an embodiment of political immunity and privilege;
- turn attention to the ephemera and the marginalia in order to restore lost voices and unregistered presences in the archive;
- take account of minorities and minority statuses (even though temporary and context-bound, such as upper-class children as a minority group with little access to writing their own history) at formerly under-examined intersections such as age, ability, gender, etc.;
- broaden the understanding of what counts as historical evidence both utilizing and criticizing the ‘big data’ toolbox;
- write critiques of historiography where focus has been either on the centers or on the margins and not on the reciprocities of the two -- reciprocities that defy the minority II majority binary;
- criticize the politics behind digitization practices at archival institutions;
- celebrate collective and individual efforts to uncover, catalogue, and organize historical evidence differently, even at times to completely revolutionize the ways archives approach documents;
- explore new types of (online and offline) archives, and emerging spatial constellations thereof, and re-examine the conventions of building an archive;
- etc.

Interested in projects that, while subscribing to or critically engaging with global historiography, pay close attention to the politics of the archive in favor of the minorities and minority positions, the panel “Silence in/of the Archives” welcomes case studies presentations, theoretical, methodological, as well as policy-oriented contributions that engage with archival silence, political censorship, the empowering effect of erasure and redaction, and the minoritizing function of archiving practices.


Please make sure that your abstracts (no more than 250 words) should include your name, current affiliation, short academic bio (no more than 100 words), and e-mail address. This will facilitate submitting the panel proposal and the participants’ contributions to the ENIGUH steering committee.

Submissions, in English, should be received at the latest by July 01, 2019.
For inquiries and submissions, please contact me at mahshid.mayar [at]

For information on the ENIUGH 2020, the general call for papers, and previous ENIUGH events, please see


Contact (announcement)

Mahshid Mayar

Universitätstrasse 25, 33615 Bielefeld