In order to improve access to sound archives, transfer agency over archive material to stakeholders, and diversify the dialogue about heritage curation, the project’s management structure and procedures are network-based. This implies that:
1) the CPs occupy positions as nodes, facilitating the many flows, exchanges and crossings of sounds, ideas, peoples and objects that are realized in DeCoSEAS’ work packages.
2) the APs and stakeholders initiate the formulation of new research questions and hitherto undiscussed issues, agendas, and positionalities in these work packages.
This inversion of managerial roles and procedural conventions is consciously aimed at decentralizing European agency in the exchange of ideas about (the curation of) SE Asian heritage. It also serves a shift towards less hierarchical modes of scholarly interaction that aids the free flow of ideas and stances.
The APs and further stakeholders are part of networks extending towards SE Asian research communities, institutional and embodied archives, non-academic experts, and artistic hubs that often remain unheard or quiet in predominantly Europe-based debates about heritage curation (see Figure 4). In their positions of nodes in a variety of academic, GLAM-sector and artistic networks, CPs and APs intend to connect these networks in ever-changing assemblages of contacts and exchanges, depending on the respective fields of expertise of the various actors in the networks. Such malleable assemblages are realized in the way DeCoSEAS’ work packages are managed and executed. For each work package one of the CPs takes responsibility through coordination, the facilitation of encounter and the provision of resources, such as funds to access archives in situ (WP1-NL), digital platforms and portal (WP2-FR), publication channels (WP3-NL) and outreach media (WP4-UK). The priorities and action plans, however, are changeable depending on collectively decided agendas with the incorporation of the various and potentially shifting interests of APs, further stakeholders, and CPs in the temporary network assemblage.
European traditions of academic research management carry a long history of controlling flows of knowledge and ideas, through the implementation of access hurdles to information, the streamlining of (forced) migrations of people, sounds, objects and ideas, and the denial of the complex entanglements of researcher and researched. These exertions of control become particularly evident in the abundant mining and exploitation of non-academic expertise and indigenous communities as sources of “free knowledge” and “free labour”. This ongoing managerial practice has devastating consequences for non-academic experts and indigenous communities in the ownership of, and agency over their own intellectual, cultural and affective labour and creations.
While the CPs acknowledge the difficulty of moving away from conventional practices of knowledge formation and acquisition, the network-based management structure based serves its engagement with sound as a method to attend to multiple voices simultaneously. This method fosters more dialogical modes of knowledge formation.
This management structure comprises a form of inquiry of colonial power relations and histories in itself. Attention for the entanglements between partners, and for how they hear each other speak in the unfolding of the project can engender valuable data about how inequalities of power in the formation of knowledge come about. Such auto-observation over sustained periods of time substantiates DeCoSEAS’ status as a pilot study into the ways practices of heritage curation can be changed to include hitherto unacknowledged voices, stances and subject positions in the definition and acquisition of cultural heritage.