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Processing the PastContesting Authorities in History and the Archives$
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Francis X. Blouin, Jr and William G. Rosenberg

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199740543

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740543.001.0001

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Contested Archives, Contested Sources

Contested Archives, Contested Sources

Chapter:
(p.116) 7 Contested Archives, Contested Sources
Source:
Processing the Past
Author(s):

Francis X. Blouin Jr.

William G. Rosenberg (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740543.003.0008

The chapter extends the discussion of social memory to the problem of new “identity archives” designed to “remember” certain elements of the past. Drawing on the work of Ann Stoler and Nicolas Dirks, the chapter takes up what Stoler has termed the archival “grain.” It argues with her that archives themselves need to be “read” in terms of the arguments embedded in their sources. In this connection the chapter also raises the question of archives as “monuments” to contested kinds of historical understanding; and re-examines the well-known “Abraham case” in which an archival historian was accused of misusing sources in ways that reflected contested views about archives themselves. The discussion here is set against the background of paper-based historical archives, but developed in terms of the current problems of information technology. It concludes with the ways identity archives themselves reflect ongoing contestation about the nature of sources and their uses.

Keywords:   Smithsonian Institution, identity archives, archival grain, Ann Laura Stoler, monumental archives, David Abraham Case, Soviet archives, China

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