Archive Stories

Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History

Archive Stories

Book Pages: 408 Illustrations: 10 b+w photos, 1 map Published: January 2006

History > World History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Despite the importance of archives to the profession of history, there is very little written about actual encounters with them—about the effect that the researcher’s race, gender, or class may have on her experience within them or about the impact that archival surveillance, architecture, or bureaucracy might have on the histories that are ultimately written. This provocative collection initiates a vital conversation about how archives around the world are constructed, policed, manipulated, and experienced. It challenges the claims to objectivity associated with the traditional archive by telling stories that illuminate its power to shape the narratives that are “found” there.

Archive Stories brings together ethnographies of the archival world, most of which are written by historians. Some contributors recount their own experiences. One offers a moving reflection on how the relative wealth and prestige of Western researchers can gain them entry to collections such as Uzbekistan’s newly formed Central State Archive, which severely limits the access of Uzbek researchers. Others explore the genealogies of specific archives, from one of the most influential archival institutions in the modern West, the Archives nationales in Paris, to the significant archives of the Bakunin family in Russia, which were saved largely through the efforts of one family member. Still others explore the impact of current events on the analysis of particular archives. A contributor tells of researching the 1976 Soweto riots in the politically charged atmosphere of the early 1990s, just as apartheid in South Africa was coming to an end. A number of the essays question what counts as an archive—and what counts as history—as they consider oral histories, cyberspace, fiction, and plans for streets and buildings that were never built, for histories that never materialized.

Contributors. Tony Ballantyne, Marilyn Booth, Antoinette Burton, Ann Curthoys, Peter Fritzsche, Durba Ghosh, Laura Mayhall, Jennifer S. Milligan, Kathryn J. Oberdeck, Adele Perry, Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, John Randolph, Craig Robertson, Horacio N. Roque Ramírez, Jeff Sahadeo, Reneé Sentilles


“[T]he essays are thought-provoking. . . . [and] provide an entertaining read. . . . [T]hey spur the reader to think more abstractly about how their own experiences relate to the process of writing history. Indeed, the collection offers good fodder for discussions of historiography and historical method.” — Cathleen D. Cahill, Journal of Anthropological Research

“[T]he essays are thoughtful and nuanced, and a pleasure to read.” — Mark Allen Greene, Biography

“[T]he greatest strength of Archive Stories . . . [is] the stories themselves and what they tell us about the capacity of archival documents—however we choose to define them—to engage the human imagination in unpredictable and subversive ways. All of the stories are exercises in reading archives against the grain. What the narratives that unfold from the readings ultimately reveal are the myriad, complex, and contradictory versions of the past that are capable of being constructed from those archives.” — Heather MacNeil, Journal of Archival Organization

“[The book] is important for archivists to read essays such as we find in Archive Stories because they bring new life and provide new perspectives on the most fundamental questions challenging archivists today.” — Richard J. Cox, American Archivist

“Burton has performed a service to the fields she covers, but mainly to the grand goal that I believe
nearly everyone who engages in research is initially enamored of: the pursuit and expansion of knowledge. With this fine compilation of perspectives and ideas, connected throughout by threads of common and uncommon understanding, Burton enables us to increase our understanding of the nature of historical research.” — John B. Wolford, Oral History Review

“The readership of a book like this will remain confined to academia. . . and that is a shame. The themes meditated on here, and the desire to explicitly connect historical methodology with issues of public importance and debate, deserve not only the serious and well-considered professional discussion they are given in this anthology, but also a wider public airing.” — Eva-Maria Swidler, World History Connected

“These eighteen carefully selected essays elucidate both the personal and the political aspects of historians’ experiences working in archives around the world. . . . Archive Stories is highly recommended to any intelligent reader interested in history, and the ‘history of writing history.’” — Cilla Golas, JSNCA

“These insightful and engaging essays will be useful to anyone who works in archives, on either side of the desk. . . . Professors of library and information science will want to draw from this anthology for courses on archival management. . . . Upper-level history majors and first-year graduate students would benefit from a close reading of the entire volume.” — Elizabeth Bramm Dunn, Historical Methods

Archive Stories is path-breaking in its subject matter, methodology, and up-to-date reflection on the status of historical knowledge. It is hard to see how anyone can avoid using this important anthology in methodology and historiography courses.” — Bonnie G. Smith, author of The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice

“Important and timely, this fascinating collection of tales from a multitude of repositories and record offices removes all sorts of archives from the historian’s grasp (though there are many extraordinary and brave historians writing here) and restores their meaning to politics and society, to the telling of individual and collective pasts.” — Carolyn Steedman, author of Dust: The Archive and Cultural History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Antoinette Burton is Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she is the Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies. She is the author of Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home, and History in Late Colonial India and At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain. She is the editor of After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation and a coeditor of Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History, both also published by Duke University Press. With Jean Allman, she edits The Journal of Women’s History.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Archive Fever, Archive Stories / Antoinette Burton 1

Part I. Close Encounters: The Archive as Contact Zone 25

National Narratives and the Politics of Miscegenation: Britain and India / Durba Ghosh 27

“Without the Past There is No Future”: Archives, History, and Authority in Uzbekistan / Jeff Sahadeo 45

Mechanisms of Exclusion: Historicizing the Archive and the Passport / Craig Roberston 68

Mr. Peal’s Archive: Mobility and Exchange in Histories of Empire / Tony Ballantyne 87

A Living Archive of Desire: Teresita la Campesina and the Embodient of Queer Latino Community Histories / Horacio N. Roque Ramirez 111

Toiling in the Archives of Cyberspace / Renee M. Sentilles 136

Part II. States of Art: “Official” Archives and Counter-Histories 157

“What Is an Archive?” in the History of Modern France / Jennifer S. Milligan 159

The Archive and the Case of the German Nation / Peter Fritzsche 184

On the Biography of the Bakunin Family Archive / John Randolph 209

Creating the “Suffragette Spirit”: British Feminism and the Historical Imagination / Laura Mayhall 232

Archives of the Unbuilt Environment: Documents and Discourses of Imagined Space in Twentieth-Century Kohler, Wisconsin / Kathryn J. Oberdeck 251

Fiction’s Imaginative Archive and the Newspaper’s Local Scandals: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Egypt / Marilyn Booth 274

Part III. Archive Matters: The Past in the Present 297

In Good Hands: Researching the 1976 Soweto Uprising in the State Archives of South Africa / Helena Pohlandt-McCormick 299

The Colonial Archive on Trial: Possession, Dispossession, and History in Delgamuukw v. British Columbia / Adele Perry 325

The History of Killing and the Killing of History / Ann Curthoys 351

Selected Bibliography 375

Contributors 381

Index 385

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3688-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3677-8
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