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Documenting Capital: My Great-Grandfather's Archive

  • Knox Hall, Columbia University 606 West 122nd Street New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)
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This talk reflects on a decade of research, contingent, accidental, and unconsciously autobiographical, to explore archival practices and the writing of history. It recounts the speaker's experience of stumbling across family papers that carried the story of Naim Cotran as a “man of capital.” Seikaly details Naim’s consumerism, his financial investments and property, and his land dispute with his brother, and then traces his experience of dispossession after the Nakba as a refugee in Lebanon. Seikaly explores questions, such as what happened to a man of capital who survived the catastrophe of 1948? What allows an archive to survive that event? What stories does it record and what does it render invisible?