Pitfalls of the Activist-Archive: A Critical Study of Online Video Archives depicting Syria

by Nicholas Avedisian-Cohen

Abstract: This paper recapitulates research from a P&P thesis submitted in the summer of 2017 devoted to determining how public archival platforms may contort fundamental archival principles with the aim of preserving memory of the ongoing armed conflict in Syria. It speculates as to whether archival principles and activist impulses can be meaningfully reconciled in the context of an internationalized armed conflict. It aims to distil key lines of argumentation that emerged from critical scrutiny of partisan archival practices so as to articulate what is at stake in the activist configuration of the video archive. Underpinning this inquiry is a brief appraisal of the popular appropriation of the term ‘archive’ and the ability of this term to connote power and enforce power relations in a more nuanced way than audio-visual archivists may be able to anticipate in their day-to-day working practices. This poses further questions as to the evolving relationship between moving image archives and war.

Nicholas Avedisian-Cohen is a recent graduate of the P&P programme, with a background in Library Studies and public education. Nicholas has worked in North American film archives on and off for three years.