University of Sussex
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Living the archive: race, music and place at the Africa Centre (1960-2000)

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Version 2 2024-05-07, 08:08
Version 1 2023-06-09, 18:21
posted on 2024-05-07, 08:08 authored by Etienne Joseph
This thesis argues that a ‘living archive’ is a dynamic and generative entity whose creative abilities are shaped as much through human mediation and embodied memory as by the material it collects and its broader cultural milieu. The overarching research question asks how the notion of a living archive can be developed conceptually and practically for the archives of the musical space at London’s Africa Centre – an Africafocussed community organisation active in the UK for over 50 years. Stuart Hall’s notion of the ‘pre-history’ of an archive is invoked as a means of understanding this particular archive, and its capacity for activation. The thesis finds, through the analysis of semi-structured interviews and archival texts, that pan-Africanism was central to the Centre’s history, memory and material archive, but treats the concept as contested and shaped by multiple understandings. It further asserts that the Africa Centre was remembered as a gendered, multicultural, convivial and cosmopolitan space in whose shaping music played a varying role. The memory of the affects of the musical spaces of the Africa Centre are recognised as a vital factor in the understanding of the Centre’s archive. The study offers a particular, and at the time of writing, unique insight into the developing postcolonial relationships between Africa, its diaspora and those interested in African cultures. Inspired by the lived experience of key ontological figures in the fashioning of the musical space at the Africa Centre, the research methodologies themselves were guided by Jamaican Dub techniques and ideas of remix and reperformance. The research advances the theories of living archive offered by Stuart Hall and others in new and fruitful directions, specifically, through pan-African, and decolonial elaborations.


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