Algerian Letters - Unlearning Short Histories

Mar 30, 2022, 12:00 pm1:30 pm



Event Description

When I was close to finishing Potential History, I felt the joy of completing ten years of exhaustive research. Yet I realized that there were still destroyed worlds that I had to attend to, maybe the most intimate ones. For many years I had at home a shelf that I called “Algeria” in which I placed images, books, maps, sometimes without even looking at them. Somehow for years, even not while writing Potential History, I could not find the language to approach this history of colonial dispossession, re-education, shame, pain, hope, loss, exile, and desire. At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote an open letter addressed to Sylvia Wynter. It became the first in a series. Since this letter, I have already written several others, addressed to the living and the dead, to family members including Julie Boumendil or Marianne Cohen, and elected kin, including Franz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, and Houria Bouteldja. Through these letters, I am asking what it means to invoke the presence of Muslim Jews through the jewels they crafted and to consider the condition of being defined by one’s craft as a mode of inhabiting one’s place in the oummah.

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, professor of Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature (Brown University), film essayist and curator of archives and exhibitions. Her books include: Potential History – Unlearning Imperialism (Verso, 2019), Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology of Photography
(Verso, 2012), The Civil Contract of Photography (Zone Books, 2008) and From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950 (Pluto Press 2011). Among her films: Un-documented: Unlearning Imperial Plunder (2019), Civil Alliances, Palestine, 47-48 (2012). Among her exhibitions Errata (Tapiès Foundation, 2019, HKW, Berlin, 2020), and Enough! The Natural Violence of New World Order, (F/Stop photography festival, Leipzig, 2016).