Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial by Ann Laura Stoler

By Ann Laura Stoler

Alongside the Archival Grain deals a distinct methodological and analytic establishing to the affective registers of imperial governance and the political content material of archival types. In a sequence of nuanced mediations at the nature of colonial records from the nineteenth-century Netherlands Indies, Ann Laura Stoler identifies the social epistemologies that guided belief and perform, revealing the troublesome racial ontologies of that pressured epistemic area. Navigating regular and striking paths throughout the lettered lives of these who governed, she seizes on moments whilst logic failed and winning different types now not looked as if it would paintings. She asks now not what colonial brokers knew, yet what occurred whilst what they notion they knew they discovered they didn't. Rejecting the proposal that archival exertions be approached as an extractive firm, Stoler units her points of interest on archival construction as a consequential act of governance, as a box of strength with violent impact, and never least as a brilliant area to do ethnography.

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Here I treat archives not as repositories of state power but as unquiet movements in a field of force, as restless realignments and 1___ 0___ 1___ 33 Sally Falk-Moore, “Explaining the Present: Theoretical Dilemmas in Processual Ethnography,” American Ethnologist 14 (4): 727–36. 34 Trouillot’s Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History is the most explicit and noteworthy example. 35 I take sentiments expressed and ascribed as social interpretations as indices of relations of power and tracers of them.

Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa (Capetown: Oxford University Press, 1998); Keith Breckenridge, “Confounding the Documentary State: Cape Workers’ Letters on the Early Witwatersrand,” paper presented at the History and African Studies Seminar, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 30 May 2000; and Keith Breckenridge, “Verwoerd’s Bureau of Proof: Total Information in the Making of Apartheid,” History Workshop Journal 59 (Spring 2005): 83–108. 40 See Shahid Amin’s fine analysis of this mix in Event, Metaphor, Memory, 1922–1992 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).

Sometimes they were impressionistic and distant, elsewhere animated by intimate fear less than intimate knowledge of what multiple colonial civil servants thought they saw, what was reported by an unnamed underling, or what they claimed others had said. Wedged within those folds of truth-claims emerges something else: uncensored turns of phrase, loud asides in the imperative tense, hesitant asides in sotto voce. These register confused assessments, parenthetic doubts about what might count as evidence, the records of eyewitnesses with dubious credentials, dismissed rumors laced with pertinent truths, contradictory testimonies called upon and quickly discarded.

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