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Identity and Loss of Historical Memory

The Destruction of Archives

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Edited By Igor Filippov and Flocel Sabaté

Archives are the documentary memory of each society and so they become one of the pillars of its identity. Its destruction is sometimes accidental, but it is often deliberate in order to remove the ties with the past. The new times that revolutions attempt to reach usually involve forceful and symbolic ruptures with former identity, including the destruction of the economic, administrative and historical documentation. This book collects updated texts written by outstanding researchers from an initial Congress held in Moscow in 2006 in order to analyze the causes and consequences of the destructive violence against archives boasted during revolutionary turmoils. The studies pay special attention to the first important contempt and destruction of documentation, during the French Revolution; continue studying the damages to archives during 19th century; and culminated analyzing the effects of Russian Revolution over the documentation and the evolution until the end of the Soviet period.

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Revolutionary Archives and the “archival turn” (William G. Rosenberg)

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Revolutionary Archives and the “archival turn”

William G. ROSENBERG University of Michigan

The study of history and the processes of archival record keeping have both undergone radical changes in the past decade or so. Archives themselves have come under scrutiny not as places of research but as subjects of new anthropological and historical enquiry. In the area of colonial and post-colonial studies, scholars like Ann Stoler, Nicholas Dirks, and Thomas Richards have tried to discern and interpret the analytical categories that imperial powers imposed on their colonial subjects, and hence on colonial archival administrations. Stoler has deftly identified this process as the formation of an “archival grain”: the “text”, as it were, of archival processes that has to be read as carefully as the documents themselves. Reading carefully “with this grain”, as Stoler puts it, is the only way scholars can fully understand the broader meanings archives and archivists may have contributed to their sources, the kinds of knowledge archival processes produce. Reading “against it” is the point of entry into what kinds of knowledge archival processes have obscured or suppressed1. Thomas Richards and Nicholas Dirks have joined her in using the concept to show how “orientalist” perceptions have molded the categories underlying both the production and arrangement of documents. One of their further contributions has been to show the political and cultural environments in which the creation of certain kinds of colonial records are set2. ← 327 | 328 →

Francis Blouin...

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