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Course: Archival Politics: Culture, Power, and Suppression

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Archives are the historian’s natural habitat. Here we read and discover, turn information into evidence, and produce histories from sometimes but a scrap of paper—or at least so we thought.

In the last three decades, historians have become increasingly attentive to the politics of the archive: archives are sites of power, places where we dispose as much as we collect, forget as much as we remember. It’s where history appears in its most tangible—sometimes overwhelming —form, but also where people and stories are suppressed. Even the very notion of what constitutes an archive has expanded, with historians now asking how landscapes can be read as depositories of historical knowledge. Archives, then, are no longer self-evident; and neither is the work historians do in the archive.

Following recent developments in cultural and postcolonial history, this seven-day workshop stimulates reflection on the relationship between historians and their archives. Set in Rome, a focal point in the global commerce and codification of information, and a city rich in archives, we will combine inquiries into the nature of archives with reflections on how we can make these repositories speak to us. Building on recent work by environmental historians and archeologists, we will also read the urban landscape and ask what cities as archives can tell us about the past in its many guises.

We will visit a variety of sites, such as the Vatican Library, the Antonio Gramsci and Communist Party Archives, the State Archives of Rome, the archive of the Inquisition, and other sites on the modern and premodern history of Italy.

Lecturer(s) dr. Richard Calis (UU) and dr. maartje van Gelder (UvA)

Coordinator dr. Maria Bonaria Urban

Assessment and Grading   
Participants are required:

  • to submit a preparatory essay, which relates the required readings to their own research in/on archives;
  • to contribute actively in group discussions during the course;
  • to submit a final assignment after the course.

Target group and entry requirements
RMA students and PhD candidates

5 ECTs (140 hours)


Participants will receive a partial reimbursement of travel expenses of €175 (increased budget when choosing train – contact huizinga@uu.nl for more information). All participants will be housed—free of charge—at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR). Accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and garden of the Institute. Excursions are covered as well.

Application and admission
Only Research master students and PhD students from the following universities are eligible to apply: University of Amsterdam, Free University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, Utrecht University, Radboud University and the University of Groningen, as well as all RMA and PhD members of Dutch National Research Schools. Selection will be based on a letter of motivation (max. 2 pages) and a CV (max. 1 page).

3 June 2024

More info
E-mail: secretary@knir.it
Phone: (+39)063269621

This course has been organized in collaboration with