Michael Innes, “Documenting the Taliban: Primary Source Research, Distressed-Environment Archives, and Forensic Heritage in Wartime”
This presentation focuses on the Taliban Sources Project (TSP), a two year, grant-funded effort formally launched in May 2013. Its purpose is to transform a private collection of Taliban documents of unprecedented scope and depth into a publicly-accessible intellectual resource. Because of the project’s scale, it stands in contrast to previous efforts in Afghanistan; because of its focus – on documents and text - it stands in contrast to efforts associated with other more prominent forms of cultural heritage and property; and because of its overall approach and ultimate aims, it stands in contrast to security-oriented seizure and exploitation of “conflict records”.
Rather than focus on the new historical and analytical findings that the project makes possible, this session will survey the mechanics of project design and implementation, and address a number of questions and issues raised by the project. Foremost among these are the conduct of digital humanities in “frontier”, technologically impoverished settings, and the potential consequences of enabling archival processes under politically difficult circumstances. The session will then look to some of the conceptual, theoretical and policy issues the project raises: the role of archives as tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the forensic implications of accessing and preserving contentious primary source materials, and the thorny questions of professional research practice and ethics that arise in doing so. The session will conclude with discussion of the overall contribution the project hopes to make both to the historical record and to current political and diplomatic processes.
Michael A. Innes is director and CEO of Thesiger & Company Limited (“Thesigers”), the London-based research and advisory firm.
A sandwich lunch will be provided. All are welcome.