Review Essay Refiguring the Archive
Literature Review from the year 2008 in the subject History - Miscellaneous, grade: 1,0, University of Cape Town (Department of Historical Studies), course: History & Politics in Africa, language: English, abstract: Working in archives is indeed More...
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Literature Review from the year 2008 in the subject History - Miscellaneous, grade: 1,0, University of Cape Town (Department of Historical Studies), course: History & Politics in Africa, language: English, abstract: Working in archives is indeed "the bread and butter" of the historian. Before they go there for the first time however, hardly any student of history has got a thorough understanding of how archives function and what they represent. Thus, for many it turns out to be a quite intimidating experience, because one can all too easily get lost as one rarely has a definite starting point, let alone a proper map for the first descent. On the other hand, some archives offer guided tours that leave their visitors with a feeling of crossing the thresholds to the halls of the past, imbuing them with a sense of awe before all of that stored evidence. The conventional notion of the archive has generally been of a place where evidence about past events is being preserved for present and future generations. This implied the assumption that the primary sources uncovered from the archive were to be treated like impartial witnesses, capable of producing objective knowledge about the past, as long as they were interpreted according to historical methodology. Starting from the assumption that such a conventional idea of the archive is very much outdated, the project of "Refiguring the Archive" is to "bring to bear on archive an interrogation similar to that which concepts like canon or orientalism have undergone" and to "develop our understanding of the circumstances of the creation of the archival record." In order to understand why the above described notion of archive is outdated in the post-modern world and to see the necessity of interrogating "circumstances of the creation of archival record," it proves helpful to remember some of the origins of such questioning. In 1967, Richard Rorty published an anthology with the title "The Linguistic Turn. Recent Essays in P"