A selection of our collaborative projects A selection of our collaborative projects

Beyond the Basket

Its immediate importance lies in the provision of mats, containers, traps and barriers, all of which have been central to culture, whether nomadic or sedentary and whether based on an economy of hunting and gathering or herding and cultivation. Beyond its practical uses, basketry has arguably been even more influential on our lives, since it relies on the relationship of number, pattern and structure. It thus provides a paradigm for disciplines such as mathematics and engineering and for the organisation of social and political life. The research explores the development of basketry in human culture over ten thousand years, and focuses on various parts of the world both in the past but particularly on the anthropological records relating to recent and current production in Amazonia, Central Africa and Papua New Guinea.

The aim is to identify both the mechanical traditions of making and the ways in which basketry is implicated in wider patterns of understanding: such things as order and metaphor. The main output of the research will be an exhibition and accompanying book. The exhibition will include ancient material recovered by excavation as well as more recent examples of basketry from around the world. It will also show the impact of woven forms on other media, such as pottery, painting, and stone sculpture and architecture.

For more information on this project, see the Arts and Humanities Research Centre (AHRC) website.

Utopian Archives: Excavating Pasts for Postcolonial Futures

Ferdinand de Jong has obtained an AHRC Research Networking grant on Utopian Archives: Excavating Pasts for Postcolonial Futures. This grant will enable him and colleagues at UCL and the University of Stirling to organise three workshops on the postcolonial archive.

The archive has recently emerged as a critical tool to conceptualise the heuristic value of history, heritage and memory in debates on postcolonial futures. In this project, we aim to generate an interdisciplinary debate on the possibilities for the colonial and postcolonial archive to provide frameworks for the imagination of postcolonial futures. Inspired by the creative memory work by postcolonial artists, the proposed research network focuses on the different ways in which archival work contributes to the reconfiguration of postcolonial society. Conventionally imagined as a technology for the storage of traces of the past, the archive can alternatively be thought of as a
place to revisit and rethink the present.
The current interest in the archive is, at least partly, concerned with the understanding of time as linear progression and examines how the archive can be explored in non-linear ways. Instead of conceptualising the archive as a place where time is arrested, this site is to be conceived of as a space where temporality is produced. Many contemporary artists have used the archive as a place "to work in" both in a literal and metaphorical sense. Artists have taken on the archive to rethink the institution, the traces it relies on and the classification of documents it pursues as a way of engaging with our unceasing "archive fever" - our attempt to preserve for eternity and commit to memory what we have already forgotten. This project takes up the challenges that artists pose for the humanities by proposing a multidisciplinary investigation into the postcolonial archive. The metaphor of the archive enables us to rethink the past through its very materiality and to act upon it creatively in order to imagine new futures. At this moment in history, we posit that archival work may help re-imagine postcolonial utopias.
Funded by the AHRC, this Research Network is led by Dr Ferdinand de Jong, Dr Paul Basu (UCL) and Professor David Murphy (University of Stirling). The AHRC Research Networking grant will be used to organise three workshops at the University College London, University of Stirling and the University of East Anglia, between September 2012 and May 2013.