MESA Banner
What is the process of identifying, recognizing, and reading archives while creating life writing in the form of a biography? How can we widen the concept of archive in writing a biography to include practices not generally recognized as “archival” per se, such as engagement with psychiatric medicine, cemeteries, martial law, and the negotiation of geography? In this talk, I explore these questions by drawing on Saidiya Hartman’s image of the archive as “mortuary” while reflecting on my journey in writing Enayat al-Zayyat's biography, Traces of Enayat (And Other Stories, 2023). I argue that writing a biography involves carrying an anonymous corpse on your shoulders while attempting to provide this corpse with a name and lend meaning to its past life. The corpse is the biographer’s question; it’s urgent, mysterious, distorted, and even inconsistent. It is a question which emerges from the present—the here and now—yet lacks the language required to speak its language. Finally, I reflect on writing a biography as a configuration or reiteration that preserves meaning by pursuing a “trail” or what Derrida calls a “trace” rather than a point of origin or a fact
Geographic Area
Sub Area