Hamilton et al. 2002

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Achille Mbembe, "The Power of the Archive and its Limits"

Archive is both building and documents within it; “The status and the power of the archive derive from this entanglement of building and documents.” (19)

“Archives are the product of a process which converts a certain number of documents into items judged to be worthy of preserving and keeping in a public place, where they can be consulted according to well-established procedures and regulations.” (20)

“Over and above the ritual of making secret, it seems clear that the archive is primarily the product of a judgement, the result of the exercise of a specific power and authority, which involves placing certain documents in an archive at the same time as others are discarded. The archive, therefore, is fundamentally a matter of discrimination and of selection, which, in the end, results in the granting of a privileged status to certain written documents, and the refusal of that same status to others, thereby judged ‘unarchivable’. The archive is, therefore, not a piece of data, but a status.” (20)

Archive has a material status that does away with doubt and gives it status of proof; “The final destination of the archive is therefore always situated outside its own materiality, in the story that it makes possible.” (21)

Also status is imaginary

"No archive can be the depository of the entire history of a society, of all that has happened in that

society. Through archived documents, we are presented with pieces of

time to be assembled, fragments of life to be placed in order, one after

the other, in an attempt to formulate a story that acquires its coherence

through the ability to craft links between the beginning and the

end. A montage of fragments thus creates an illusion of totality and

continuity. In this way, just like the architectural process, the time

woven together by the archive is the product of a composition.” (21)

Instituting imaginary of the archive “originates in this trade with death”

3 dimensions:

“Struggle against the fragments of life being dispersed” (22) Act of burial, archive as sepulture

"Examining archives is to be interested in that which life has left

behind, to be interested in debt. However, it is also to be preoccupied with debris. In this sense, both the historian and the archivist inhabit a sepulchre. They maintain an intimate relationship with a world alive only by virtue of an initial event that is represented by the act of dying. This being the case, writing history merely involves manipulating archives. Following tracks, putting back together scraps and debris, and reassembling remains, is to be implicated in a ritual which results in the resuscitation of life, in bringing the dead back to life by reintegrating them in the cycle of time, in such a way that they find, in a text, in an artefact or in a monument, a place to inhabit, from where they may continue to express themselves.” (25)

"To a very large

extent, the historian is engaged in a battle against this world of spectres.

The latter find, through written texts, a path to an existence

among mortals - but an existence that no longer unfolds according

to the same modality as in their lifetime. It may be that historiography,

and the very possibility of a political community (polis), are

only conceivable on condition that the spectre, which has been

brought back to life in this way, should remain silent, should accept

that from now on he may only speak through another, or be represented

by some sign, or some object which, not belonging to any one

in particular, now belongs to all.” (25)