AAA/CASCA 2023 CfP: Absence and the Archive

Sowparnika Balaswaminathan Discussion

Hello all,

We are seeking papers for our panel at the upcoming AAA/CASCA conference (15-19 Nov 2023) in Toronto (abstract below). If interested, please email us with an expression of interest and/or an abstract by 15 Mar.


Hannah Turner (

Sowparnika Balaswaminathan (


Absence and the Archive: Categories, Occlusion, and Recovery of Knowledge Production

AAA/CASCA Conference, 2023 | Panel Theme: Transitions

Co-Conveners: Sowparnika Balaswaminathan (Concordia University) & Hannah Turner (UBC) 

Institutions such as archives and museums are not only repositories of historical and cultural collections, but are also sites of knowledge production. But what does this mean when our world - and our institutions are being both literally and figuratively deconstructed? Many scholars and disciplines have problematized how these institutions present themselves as scientific, objective, and authoritative, while obfuscating the structures of power that make selective discernment possible. This panel examines how epistemic categories in museums and archives create conditions of occlusion resulting in loss, forgetting, and gaps in historical memory, and why it is important to examine these processes now. We are especially concerned with how to understand absence in a time of change,  as physical materials are deteriorating, climate catastrophes create unstable conditions, and the political structures that uphold these institutions crumble. How do we access that which is not present in the archive, especially as these institutions are radically transformed? What are the tools and strategies available to us to identity, demarcate, and potentially recover that which is lost? How can disciplines that center knowledge as presence recognize the epistemes that have been occluded, and communities that have been invisibilized in this unstable, shifting world? Thinking with concepts such as spectrality, fugitivity, and others, this panel brings together papers that contend with such present-absences from diverse contexts  and regions.