This essay examines the benefits and disadvantages of using imagination as a method of historical research in the archive. Employing Jean-Paul Sartre's notion of “image-consciousness” in The Psychology of Imagination, imagination is defined and explored as a form of perception based upon temporal absence or suspension. This method is then discussed in relation to the exhibition “Not Given: Talking of and Around Photographs of Arab Women” (2006), curated by the author with artist Isabelle Massu. The installation was assembled with the cooperation of the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut and traveled from Marseille (2005-06) to San Francisco (2007). The author explores a central element in the exhibition—the mélange of terms and cultural forces operating within the Arab Image Foundation's keyword system—in order to posit the presence of an archival imagination that carries the method of imaginative research into the construction of the archive itself. The Arab Image Foundation—an archive with its own peculiar cross-cultural history and digital future— is found to encourage its own particular form of engagement.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/dore_bowen/1/