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Colonial contexts

Invitation to Provenance Research Colloquium

On Monday, February 26, 2024, 6 p.m., Sara Akhlaq will give a lecture on „Power and Agency in Data Infrastructures of Museum and Archival Collections“.

The German Lost Art Foundation invites you to the event series “Provenance Research Colloquium” in cooperation with CARMAH (Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage).

On Monday, February 26, 2024, 6 p.m., Sara Akhlaq will give a lecture on „Power and Agency in Data Infrastructures of Museum and Archival Collections“.

Museums and archives gain a wider influx through digitising their collections and making the cultural data thus produced accessible online. However, if not addressed during the digitisation process, the racial, gender and colonial biases that are an inherent part of collections with colonial backgrounds will also be present in the cultural data. As a way of addressing these biases, the colonial context of the collections needs to be viewed. This could highlight the notions of power exercised by the colonial entities as well as the agency exercised by the colonised population in resisting this domination. However, these notions often go missing in the narratives that the digitised colonial collections create. By employing intersectional feminist and decolonial frameworks, the talk will interrogate power and agency in digital museums and archival collections: Where are they located? How are they exercised in archives and museums – and by communities that are represented in these collections? And how could highlighting them help inform the development of digital reproductions that challenge dominant colonial narratives? The talk will focus on historical examples of different tools for exercising agency that have been developed by marginalised communities in order to resist dominant narratives. One such tool is Counterdata, which involves data intervention in the development and representation of cultural data in order to highlight power differentials and structural oppression. It is argued that it is not possible to undo the centuries of colonial violence that the museum collections implicitly or explicitly embody. However, it is possible to address the racial, gender and colonial influences through the data infrastructures associated with these colonial collections, and their consequent representation through online platforms.

Sara Akhlaq is doing a PhD in Humanities Data Science and Methodology at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. At the same time, she is also working as a Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. In both her PhD and her museum research, Sara is trying to look at the digitisation processes at museums and archives from an intersectional feminist and anti-colonial perspective. In her PhD, Sara Akhlaq is developing data representation strategies that could highlight the colonial influences in digital museums and archival collections.

The event will take place as a video conference via Webex. Participation is free of charge, but only possible after registration by February 23, 2024. The participants will receive their access data on the day of the event.
Registrations to:

German Lost Art Foundation
Heinrich Natho
Humboldtstr. 12 | 39112 Magdeburg, Germany
phone +49 (0) 391 727 763-23 

By registering and participating, you allow the organizer to record the event and use it for public relations and documentation (§ 22 KunstUrhG). The organizer collects, processes and uses your personal data as part of carrying out the statutory tasks of the German Lost Art Foundation.