Archive. Justice. Memory. Time
Reflections on Esat Shala’s mal d’archive
In this article we reflect on the archive and its relation to justice, memory and time, by focusing on Esat Shala’s lifetime archiving ‘project’. Esat Shala, a young man from the village of Krajkova, Kosovo, has been collecting for more than twenty years video and audio records, photographs and diaries of war crimes and massacres that took place in Kosovo during 1998-1999, leading to an impressively large collection of more than 2500 records. We conducted a narrative analysis of this practice, focusing on what he is doing (the practical process), and why he is doing it (the meaning he ascribes to it), based largely on online written and video material in the media. The focus of our approach has been on not assuming or taking for granted what or why Shala is doing what he is doing, engaging instead in a ‘deep listening’ to his often repeated and therefore onsistent answers. We start the article by providing first a few reflections on the archive and its connection to war and to the past, and second a description of the socio-political context of 1990s Kosovo from which Shala’s ‘project’ has emerged. Through our analysis, we read Shala’s archiving lifetime
‘project’ as an obstinate and enduring resistance against an organised silencing, as defiance against institutional oblivion, as well as an act of justice and care for the war victims and survivors. We argue that this endurance and persistence, inability to stop and surrender, requires stubbornly safeguarding a form of undefeated despair.