“Documenting Activism about Detention” Workshop Slides

On Thursday, 8th November 2018 I was invited to attend an afternoon workshop entitled “Banished Behind Bars: Detention in the UK,” organised by colleagues at the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex. The aim of this event was to explore how we can raise awareness of the challenges faced by individuals in the UK asylum system.  It was perhaps ironic that this happened to be on the same day the UK Government announced the closure of Campsfield House immigration removal centre but this acted as a good starting point for discussions around the role of activism in supporting those who have been detained within the UK immigration system.  I had been asked to run a small breakout session on “Documenting Activism about Detention” which led to a number of interesting discussions with colleagues from different backgrounds (academics; practitioners; activists) about how we can ensure that histories of detention practices are collected and preserved to help in establishing an effective counter-narrative for future historians and researchers to use when dealing with the official narratives found in state records.

As the Archivist for the Refugee Council Archive and sometime web editor of the Living Refugee Archive portal here, I was very interesting in taking some time to discuss with colleagues issues around “Documenting Activism about Detention” as I felt this rasied a number of important and susbstantive questions atround what makes an archive and what are role should be as archivists in helping to ensure materials, perhaps considered outstide the mainstream, by some our collected and preserved to help provide a counter narrative to more official discourses.  I am attaching the few slides I produced for the workshop with this blog post so they can be freely downloaded but just thought it would be good to reproduce some of the questions I thought off and to see if we can continue the debate around these issues.

[Download Slides(PDF Format)]

Discussion Questions

  • How can we encourage archivists and activists to engage with each other?
  • Documents, objects, oral histories, graffiti, what makes an activist archive?
  • How can we approach archiving activist movements around immigration detention?
  • How can we make activist movements and NGO’s aware of the importance of documenting their own history as a means of challenging official narratives?
  • How can we identify past and current social justice movements and gaps in archival holdings?
  • How can we build local, national and international networks between archivists and activists who are interested in social justice issues?
  • Example:  Immigration Detention Archive (Oxford) – https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/immigration-detention-archive

 Maybe there is scope for us to develop some more work around these issues and perhaps even create a discussion series and/or Twitter conversation to explore these issues in more depth.  i welcome any thoughts our feedback that might be out there in the digital realm?  My details are: Paul Dudman E-mail: p.v.dudman@uel.ac.uk and Twitter: @PaulDudman.

Note on the UEL Archives:

We are currently working on civic engagement and outreach projects both locally, nationally and internationally and are looking at ways in which we can help and support the collection of materials documenting the important role of activism in the field of detention and also more widely in refugee and migration discourse.  We would be very open to working with colleagues who attended the Banished Behind Bars event to explore ways in which we document, preserve and make accessible for posterity the invaluable work and contributions they are undertaking.