Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-m42fx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-20T15:16:49.688Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Mourning the Archive: Middle Eastern Photographic Heritage between Neoliberalism and Digital Reproduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 October 2014

Lucie Ryzova*
Affiliation:
Faculty of History, University of Birmingham

Abstract

The past decade and a half have seen the founding of new archival initiatives in the Middle East devoted to collecting and preserving photographs. This article examines critically the constitution of photographic heritage in the region ethnographically and historically. I look first at how historical photographs are understood in Egypt by their custodians old and new. Publics and institutions overwhelmingly see photographs as “images of something,” and appreciate them for their visual content rather than as social and cultural objects. This facilitates their transfer from public collections into private hands in Egypt and abroad. I examine in detail key actors currently involved in shaping photographic heritage: the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut, and private collectors in Egypt. I look at how these actors assign value to historical photographs in their custody and their strategies for collecting and curating them. They often define their actions negatively, “against others,” historically against a state that they believe has failed to care for national heritage. Yet these very actors, and their rivals, often perpetuate such narratives and associated fears. Two models of photographic heritage-making are currently emerging in the region: a “digital” model that destroys artifacts in order to produce data, and a model of private cultural institutions that provide unclear and selective access to their collections.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

REFERENCES

Ali, Amro. 2012. Power, Rebirth, and Scandal: A Decade of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Jadaliyya. At: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/7866/power-rebirth-and-scandal_a-decade-of-the-biblioth (accessed 20 Oct. 2012).Google Scholar
Appadurai, Arjun. 1988. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Armbrust, Walter, 1996. Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Baron, Beth. 2007. Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Batchen, Geoffrey. 2004. Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press.Google Scholar
Burton, Antoinette, ed. 2005. Archive Stories. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Butler, Beverly. 2007. Return to Alexandria: An Ethnography of Cultural Heritage Revivalism and Museum Memory. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
Colla, Elliott. 2007. Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Cuno, James. 2008. Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Davies, Clare. 2011. All That's Fit: Research at the Dar al Hilal and Al Ahram Foundation Photographic Archives. Paper presented at Photo Archives and the Photographic Memory of Art History III, Institute of Fine Arts, New York City, March.Google Scholar
Davies, Clare and Farid, Heba. 2012. Egyptian Geographical Society Photograph Collection: Overview and Guide. Cairo: Centre for Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTNAT) [unpublished internal document].Google Scholar
Denis, Eric. 2006. Cairo as a Neo-Liberal Capital? In Singerman, Diane and Amar, Paul, eds., Cairo Cosmopolitan: Politics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.Google Scholar
Di-Capua, Yoav. 2009a. Gatekeepers of the Arab Past: Historians and History Writing in Twentieth-Century Egypt. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Di-Capua, Yoav. 2009b. The Professional Worldview of the Effendi Historian. History Compass 7, 1: 306–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edwards, Elizabeth. 2001. Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
Edwards, Elizabeth and Bhaumik, Kaushik, eds. 2008. Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
Edwards, Elizabeth and Hart, Janice, eds. 2004. Photographs, Objects, Histories: On the Materiality of Images. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
El Kady, Galila and ElKerdany, Dalila. 2006. Belle-epoque Cairo: The Politics of Refurbishing the Downtown Business District. In Singerman, Diane and Amar, Paul, eds., Cairo Cosmopolitan: Politics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.Google Scholar
Frosh, Paul. 2003. The Image Factory: Consumer Culture, Photography and the Visual Content Industry. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
Gibbon, Kate Fitz, ed. 2005. Who Owns the Past? Cultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
Golia, Maria. 2009. Photography and Egypt. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
al-Imam, Muhammad Rif‘at. 2010. ‘Asr al-Sura fi Masr al-haditha. Cairo: Dar al-Kutub.Google Scholar
Jay, Martin. 1993. Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Kennedy, Nora, Noris, Debra Hess, Arida, Zeina, and Sawaya, Tamara. 2010. Preservation of the Photographic Heritage of the Eastern Mediterranean. At: http://www.meppi.me/publications (accessed Oct. 2012).Google Scholar
Merryman, John Henry, ed. 2006. Imperialism, Art, and Restitution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Mitchell, Timothy. 2002. The Rule of Experts: Egypt, Technopolitics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Myers, Fred R., ed. 2001. Empire of Things: Regimes of Value and Material Culture. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.Google Scholar
Pinney, Christopher. 1997. Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
Pinney, Christopher. 2003. Notes from the Surface of the Image. In Pinney, Christopher and Peterson, Nicolas, eds., Photography's other Histories. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinney, Christopher and Peterson, Nicolas, eds. 2003. Photography's other Histories. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Reid, Donald Malcolm. 2003. Whose Pharaohs? Egyptology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Ryzova, Lucie. 2012. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Collector, Dealer and Academic in the Informal Old-Paper Markets of Cairo. In Mejcher-Atassi, Sonja and Schawrtz, John-Pedro, eds., Archives, Museums, and Collecting Practices in the Modern Arab World. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
Ryzova, Lucie. 2014. The Age of the Efendiyya: Passages to Modernity in National-Colonial Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Ryzova, Lucie. n.d. (forthcoming 2015). Unstable Icons, Contested Histories: Vintage Photographs and Neoliberal Memory in Contemporary Egypt. In Sune Haugbolle and Daniella Kuzmanovic, eds., “Iconic Figures, Publics, and Politics in the Middle East.” Special issue of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 8, 2.Google Scholar
Sassoon, Joanna. 2004. Photographic Materiality in the Age of Digital Reproduction. In Edwards, Elizabeth and Hart, Janice, eds., Photographs Objects Histories: On the Materiality of Images. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Scafidi, Susan. 2005. Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
Schwartz, Joan M. and Cook, Terry. 2002. Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory. Archival Science 2: 119.Google Scholar
Sekula, Allan, 1983. Photography between Labour and Capital. In Buchloh, Benjamin H. D. and Wilkie, Robert, eds., Mining Photographs and other Pictures 1948–1968: A Selection from the Negative Archives of Shedden Studio, Glace Bay, Cape Breton. Halifax, N.S.: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.Google Scholar
Singerman, Diane and Amar, Paul, eds. 2006, Cairo Cosmopolitan: Politics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.Google Scholar
Stoler, Ann Laura. 2002. Colonial Archives and Arts of Governance. Archival Science 2: 87109.Google Scholar
Strassler, Karen. 2010. Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Winegar, Jessica. 2006. Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Woodward, Michelle. 2011. Profile of an Archive in Flux: The Arab Image Foundation at 13. At:http://photobeirut.typepad.com/photo_beirut/2011/01/profile-of-an-archive-in-flux-.html (accessed Sept. 2013).Google Scholar