What is an archive? What stories are to be found in the archives and what stories do we tell ourselves about the meaning and function of the archive? For many years now, and certainly since the publication of the French theorist Jacques Derrida’s essay, Archive Fever, historians, archivists, and cultural theorists have been asking questions about the archive as much as they have been engaged in the actual practice of archiving, or making use of material found in archives. This tutorial considers some of those questions. It is not a hands-on course about how to use an archive, nor a celebration of material found in archives. Rather it consists of a series of broad enquiries into the history of the archive, the politics of collecting, and the political and social function of the archive in various societies. Each week a specific topic will be addressed, collectively illustrative of the breadth of recent enquiries into the logic of the archive. Topics will include, amongst others: the urge to archive in the Renaissance; the nature of the historian’s encounter with “the past” in the archive; the function of the archive in the creation of the modern nation state; the power relations embodied in the colonial archive; the construction of contemporary group identities through the practices of archiving; the recent desire to archive everything, not merely the written document; and the new archives of cyberspace.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Requirements/Evaluation: each student will write five 6- to 7-page essays, prepare five critiques of their tutorial partner's work, and write a final paper about their work on the Williams archives
Prerequisites: open to all junior and senior History majors and others with permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: History majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
WS Notes: Each student will write five 6- to 7-page essays (one every other week) that will be critiqued, both in writing and orally, by the instructor and the student's tutorial partner. The student will also write a final 6- to 7-page essay reflecting on the nature of Williams archival practices in the context of the readings undertaken during the course of the tutorial. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
Attributes: HIST Group G Electives - Global History