A media-sensitive approach to history

Re-sounding the colonial archive

Andreas Fickers and Annie van den Oever (2013) call for a media-sensitive approach to history, and I draw inspiration from their emphasis on the multi-sensorial and media-specific modalities of knowledge formation: “In engaging with the historical artifacts, we aim at stimulating our sensorial appropriation of the past and thereby critically reflecting the (hidden or non-verbalized) tacit knowledge that informs our engagement with media technologies. In doing experimental media archaeology, we want to plead for a hands-on, ears-on, or an integral sensual approach towards media technologies”.

I use the sound medium as a dialogical tool to shed light on often overlooked dimensions in the formation of historiography as an often primarily textual document, filtered through the default perspective of the nation state, and I explore what a focus on other embodied imprints might allow in terms of knowledge formation and potentials for relationality. 

I document the affordances of a polyphony of living voices and what sorts of tensions might present themselves by and through the specific roles we are ascribed in the Transatlantic narrative today, colored by the past and invested in a variety of communities’ possible futures. I suggest that the sound medium harbors a potential for a multi-perspectival and multi-voiced  opening up of colonial archives, and I argue that the focus on physical sources, for instance various loci of contested history, in combination with digital media, prompts us to opt out of the usually modernity-informed Western way of understanding history as a linear progression. This enables me to investigate further multi-layered, non-linear fractions of narratives embedded in contemporary nature-culture environments.

Below you can listen to the full SoundCloud soundtrack produced for the article “Colonial media ecologies – Re-sounding the colonial archive with impressions from a field trip to Ghana”. You might have already encountered some of the soundtracks as I link to them individually at various places throughout this website whenever a story relates directly to a specific soundtrack.