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Déjà Vu at the Archive: Photography, National Narratives, and the Multiple Histories of the Smyrna Fire

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As original primary sources remain central to history writing, researchers strive to find new, unpublished documents. Each archival discovery is perceived to increase the importance and contribution of the research work, but like any other discovery, it is assumed to happen only once. Should the document be encountered by the researcher a second time, elsewhere, in a different archive or collection, the encounter often does not acquire the same significance, and the document might be bypassed easily. Visual documents in particular, which at times have been perceived as too unreliable while in other cases treated as authoritative testimonies, present additional challenges of analysis when found in multiple contexts. However, what if re-encountering the same material in different archives is key to unfolding its meanings and histories? What if such archival re-encounters deserve to be sought after rather than avoided? These questions are especially worthy of exploration when the research concerns sites and histories of conflict, in which archival material is often destroyed, withheld, or heavily politicized. In light of research on photographs of the 1922 Smyrna Fire in Greek, Turkish, and American archives, this paper explores the potential of archival re-encounters to expand and enrich historiographical analysis.
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Keywords: Smyrna fire; archival re-encounters; archive; nation-building; photography; refugees

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000121711467 National Technical University of Athens

Publication date: July 1, 2020

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  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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