The Archive: October 7, 2013.

Our discussion on what constitutes an archive and how we may conceive of oral history as an “archive” was extremely fascinating for me. I feel like there is a great deal of discussion around oral histories as archives that we can continue to discuss in this forum. Having reflected of Derrida’s notion that the archive begins in the subconscious and that it is a psycho-analytical tool by which we store knowledge, I wonder if we may make a connection with that of how communities orally tell their own life histories. For example, members in Canadian First Nations communities orally tell their life histories, or as Julie Cruikshank notes the proper term “shagoons.” If oral histories originate from the conscious mind of those deemed worthy of storing the community’s stories, are they a form of archival database? How may we reconceptualize the roles of power and the “state” in oral histories? I think it might be an interesting endeavor to examine the ways in which communities exert control and access to information in a way similar to how “material” or physical archives control access to information. In what we can we conceive of oral histories as an archive and what role does memory shape or “bias” oral accounts of the past? I ask this, because I feel it will lead to a healthy discussion between the archive and memory in two weeks time.

In the case of the Indian National Archives, is Ghosh’s experience one of the colonized archive rejecting the history and memory of the colonizer (restricting her access)? However, by rejecting the colonial past, is that not implicitly recognizing it at the same time? Can colonial archives ever escape colonizer knowledge, perspectives, and approaches to constructing the archive?

One thought on “The Archive: October 7, 2013.

  1. Converting, even conceiving of, oral histories as an archive raises many points of concern for me. Archives are controlled spaces with rigid gatekeepers and in the archive itself many things can go “missing”, deleted with no trace of their existence. Isn’t this silencing dangerous, and isn’t this what oral histories give us: an account of the spaces that archives have missed? What if, instead, archives’ walls are rendered permeable and other ways of knowing are allowed to be more authoritative than they currently are. Maybe archives should become orally historicized to gain legitimacy of their own.

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