Christian Rossipal (New York): Under Erasure – Irregular Migrants and Transversal Heritage in Northern Europe

Recent cultural heritage scholarship has begun to move beyond the statecenteredness which has been, and still is, prevalent even when states are analyzed as discursive social constructs or »imagined communities.« An emerging critique of »methodological nationalism« seeks to challenge academic practices that marginalize certain forms of human agency, and leave especially the stateless untheorized and thus invisible. In this paper, I reverse the statecentric framework by studying contemporary cultural archiving carried out by de jure and de facto stateless activists in Europe. I have had unique access to conduct a field study of a recently founded archive project – The Noncitizen Archive. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, it is a digital archive for moving images that also stores audio, documents, and photos. Organized by citizen activists in collaboration with sans papier noncitizens, media is »preserved, secured and, with the uploader’s consent, made available for artistic and research purposes.« As a case study, The Noncitizen Archive raises fundamental questions about the archival institution as a locus of power. It opens up ways to think about preserving cultural heritage outside the realm of the sovereign nationstate. At the same time, it is entangled in the aporetic tension between the national and the transnational. The proposed paper is an investigation into this tension by way of a first-hand look at The Noncitizen Archive, considering its attendant media ecology, unconventional financing, and clandestine sociality. With the help of excerpts from interviews and ethnographic field notes, I intend to show the complexity of undocumented diasporas’ archival practices and their negotiations with citizen actors and support groups. I will pay special attention to ways in which the cultural production is operating »under erasure,« to use Stuart Hall’s phrase – which is to say that I will trace the interplay between regularity and dispersion found in the sans papier communities’ archival practices.