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Presented By: University Library

The Sentimental Archive: Remembering Nubia through Salvage Anthropology

"Family from the village of Dihmit in Egyptian Nubia, 1962." Courtesy of The Rare Books and Special Collections Library of The American University in Cairo. "Family from the village of Dihmit in Egyptian Nubia, 1962." Courtesy of The Rare Books and Special Collections Library of The American University in Cairo.
"Family from the village of Dihmit in Egyptian Nubia, 1962." Courtesy of The Rare Books and Special Collections Library of The American University in Cairo.
This exhibit showcases select photographs from The American University in Cairo’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library taken by the renowned Egyptian photographer Abd al-Fattah Eid as well as by the Cairo-born Swiss artist Margo Veillon.

In 1964, the construction of the Aswan High Dam displaced Nubians from their ancestral villages along the banks of the Nile in Egypt. In the years immediately preceding the dam’s construction, the American University in Cairo directed a large-scale project of salvage anthropology with funding from the Ford Foundation.

This endeavor yielded hundreds of photographs of al-nuba al-qadima or “Old Nubia” the term affectionately used by community members. Over the past sixty years, Nubians have used these images to cultivate a collective memory of a lost homeland. From Aswan to Alexandria and beyond, community members are salvaging their own stories from this anthropological archive, reshaping it as a sentimental terrain of solidarity across time, space, and circumstance.

This selection of photographs includes persons, places, and practices as well as glimpses of the presence of the photographer and researchers. Both online and offline, Egyptian Nubians continue to share and re-mediate these photos as they recall their historical displacement and revitalize their heritage for future generations.

The exhibit is curated by Yasmin Moll, assistant professor of anthropology, and coordinated by Nesrien Hamid, doctoral student in anthropology, with funding from the University of Michigan's Humanities Collaboratory.

For a deeper dive, visit the companion exhibit, Narrating Nubia, at the Duderstadt Center on North Campus. It delves into the archaeological, anthropological, and community narratives of both ancient and modern-day Nubia spanning Egypt and Sudan.
"Family from the village of Dihmit in Egyptian Nubia, 1962." Courtesy of The Rare Books and Special Collections Library of The American University in Cairo. "Family from the village of Dihmit in Egyptian Nubia, 1962." Courtesy of The Rare Books and Special Collections Library of The American University in Cairo.
"Family from the village of Dihmit in Egyptian Nubia, 1962." Courtesy of The Rare Books and Special Collections Library of The American University in Cairo.

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