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‘Dream no small dreams!’ Impossible archival imaginaries in dance community archiving in a digital age

Chapter in book
Authors Astrid von Rosen
Published in Rethinking Dance History: Issues and Methodologies (second edition) / Edited by Larraine Nicholas, Geraldine Morris
Pages 148-159
ISBN 9781138682917
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication New York
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Pages 148-159
Language en
Keywords Dance archives, archival science, impossible archival imaginaries, imagined records, participatory approaches, digital age, dig where you stand
Subject categories Art History


Drawing on recent research at the University of Gothenburg and University College London, this chapter aims to chart and theorize the challenges faced by local independent dance communities when it comes to realizing their archival dreams. Three case studies are presented, exploring how dance archives have been dreamt of and actually have emerged in the city of Gothenburg, as well as how they are understood and used by the communities and by scholars investigating independent dance. Productive frictions are identified between an unimaginative and essentially positivist understanding of archives and sources as plain containers of facts, and the recent recognition that archival absences and imaginaries have the power to motivate research, propel change and stimulate the writing of new histories. Turning to recent theoretical development within archival theory, I use Anne Gilliland and Michelle Caswell’s terms “impossible archival imaginaries” and “imagined records”, as they “offer important affective counterbalances and sometimes resistance to legal, bureaucratic, historical and forensic notions of evidence” (Gilliland & Caswell 2016:55). The chapter concludes with a presentation of arguments for a methodologically conscious, digitally engaged participatory approach (“dancing where we dig – digging where we dance”) to local independent dance archiving and archival research as a way of further augmenting the potentially productive role of dreaming big dreams.

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