James Lowry | Lecturer, Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies
At 10pm on 26 April 2019, I walked into the crater of Volca Montsacopa to see Kukai Dantza perform a dance whose ritualistic choreography brought to my mind Abraham Bosse’s frontispiece for Thomas Hobbes’Leviathan, with its social body composed of physical bodies. I was in Olot, Catalonia for a Faber residency on archivistics, and I was thinking a lot about how that connection between the physical and social depended on documentation. At this residency, I spent time working on an article about the laissez-passer document type, which is used to facilitate the international movement of those who are not easily classified by national documentary regimes. These may be staff of international organisations, those without documentation, even dead bodies. The laissez-passer is a jumping off point for thinking about the contingent nature of the relationship between jurisdictions and their documentation requirements, and juridical and physical persons, an issue surfaced by the Refugee Rights in Records project. The generous hospitality of the Faber residency gave me space to focus on this work. Faber gave me and other residents rooms and space to work in Olot, with views of volcanic mountains, fields of canola flowers and occasional hot air balloons. When the residents gathered at (delicious) dinners to discuss our projects, I learnt about records work in different contexts, from archival education in Brazil to community archiving in New York to information policy in China. My time in Catalonia was enriching and productive and I’m grateful to Associació d’Arxivers-Gestors de Documents de Catalunya for working with Faber to support research in the archival field.