28 Mar 2024 19:30-20:45 Frankopan Hall, West Court, CB5 8BQ



Dr Siddharth Soni locates the birth of data in colonial attitudes to the archive in this talk co-hosted by the Cambridge Festival and the Intellectual Forum.

For centuries, the archive has intrigued and fascinated us. Often imagined as a dusty room in a crumbling old library, it is where we go to locate our collective memory, to understand who we are, and where we have come from. But with the advent of information technology, and its drive to accumulate vast amounts of data, the archive itself is changing. Today, it is not any one physical location, but an ethereal stream of information, travelling at the speed of light. It is in the palm of our hands, yet snaking beneath our oceans, powered by fossil technologies and rare earth minerals, and plugged into a planetary grid of technologies.

In this talk, Dr Soni will discuss his upcoming book Monstrous Archives, the winner of the 2023 Ideas Prize for Non-Fiction, which tells the story of the industrial transformation of the archive into a large and inscrutable monster. He will take us on a journey through the technologies that underpin the archive, whether card catalogues in a colonial library, or computer bots scraping and assembling bytes in a data centre, to illuminate the anxieties and ideologies that underpin the archive today.


Dr Siddharth Soni is a Lecturer in Literature and Digital Culture in the Department of English at the University of Southampton. Previously, he was the Isaac Newton Trust Fellow at Cambridge Digital Humanities and Postdoctoral Associate at Jesus College, Cambridge. He has taught in many areas of modern and contemporary literature for the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. A proposal for his current book-project ‘Monstrous Archives’ was the winner of the £25k Ideas Prize 2023. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Critical Quarterly, Review of English Studies, and New Formations.


If you have specific accessibility needs for this event please contact the Intellectual Forum at Jesus College.

Cambridge Digital Humanities

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