Archival Aspirations and Anxieties: Contemporary Preservation and Production of the Past in Umbumbulu, KwaZulu-Natal

Academic and consultant Grant McNulty has recently published the first paper from his PhD findings in the South Africa Historical Journal. It focuses on custodianship of the past in a variety of forms in Umbumbulu, near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. The paper examines the Ulwazi Programme, as well as various other locations in Umbumbulu where the past is being dealt with and custody of the past is actively managed by, for example, local, non-professional historians and traditional leaders.

In some instances, the work being done straddles the custodial and the productive, inviting a re-examination of notions of custodianship and the production of versions of history. While these practices are frequently thought of as separate, the ethnographic material reveals that in daily practice, the distinction between the two is unclear. The paper considers the resources that are mobilised as evidence in the present by different actors in Umbumbulu to substantiate claims about the past and reveals both archival aspirations and anxieties. There are those who aspire to a fixed record as a mechanism of preservation and acknowledgement, and others who have anxieties about such a configuration.

The full paper is available for download HERE.

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