DZK-Project “Towards Sonic Resocialization” at the Lautarchiv

The German Lost Art Foundation is funding the research project “Towards Sonic Resocialization” at the Berlin Lautarchiv from 1.3.2024 to 28.2.2026. For the first time, the focus of the research is not on objects but on sound recordings. The Lautarchiv is examining its collection of recordings of prisoners of war from the First World War who were recruited for the armies of European powers in the colonies. These include 456 sound recordings of African prisoners in German camps.

The digitized recordings and the associated historical written documentation are to be shared with the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire in Dakar, Senegal, as well as with other African archives in the future. In the course of this, the existing metadata of the sound archive will also be subject to a critical decolonizing onomastication. This requires questioning and revising the categories and terminologies that emerged in the course of colonisation.

Proactive exchange and cooperation with the respective source communities are particularly important to the project right from the start. Individuals from the countries of origin are employed to translate the recorded texts and documentation. Provenance research is also carried out on the places of origin of the colonial soldiers and genealogical research is conducted to determine possible descendants.

The project aims to create a model for the future handling of colonial heritage in sound archives. In the future, this will be done not only with recordings of speakers from the African continent but also with all colonial recordings in the Lautarchiv.


Shellac record Lautarchiv – Photo © Christopher Li