Reflecting on Archives (with a Bib-in-Progress)

As I’m preparing to head to New York City to hit up a few archives — some for the first time, some again/”just to make sure” — I’m reflecting a little on “the archive” and its role or place in communication scholarship. I’ve been doing archival research since the eighth grade, thanks to a wonderful teacher who taught us how to use and required us to use places like the Washington State Archives and the Northwest Room and Special Collections at the Tacoma Public Library. Since then, I’ve done a lot more archival research and have crafted an archive of my own, which gathers perhaps the most comprehensive collection of materials on the Young Lords. Still, I probably don’t stop often enough to think about the status and function(s) of the archives and institutions I visit, and the archive of my own that I have constructed. 

In reflecting on archives and communication scholarship, I’ve started turning to some different sources on the subject. For example, Craig Robertson recently edited a special issue of The Communication Review on “Writing From the Archive: Thinking About Media History,” which joins other journal special issues dealing with the topic of archives in the humanities (e.g., “The Archive” and “The Archive: Part 2” in volumes 11 and 12, respectively, of History of the Human Sciences). Such journal articles also link up with books like Zelizer’s Explorations in Communication and History, Steedman’s Dust: The Archive and Cultural History, Burton’s Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History, and Taylor’s The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. While such scholarship isn’t necessary for doing archival work, I think it’s helpful for being self-reflexive about the politics of archives, the functions of archival knowledge, and the limits and possibilities of the archives on which I rely.

While this isn’t a comprehensive bibliography, the list below is a kind of starting point for those interested in archives. What else would you add to this list???

Update 5/4/11: Somehow, I left many of my own discipline’s recent readings off this list — including a 2006 special forum of Rhetoric & Public Affairs, edited by Charles E. Morris III, entitled “The Politics of Archival Research.” There’s another special forum on the archive (2010) in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. As such, I’ve updated the bibliography below to reflect some additions.

Update 5/5/11: I’ll keep adding some sources from time to time (if needed) and will try to make those mentions in the comments below.

Selected Bibliography

Agamben, Giorgio. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. New York: Zone Books, 1999.

Beard, David. “From Work to Text to Document.” Archival Science 8, no. 3 (2008): 217-226, doi:10.1007/s10502-009-9083-4.

Biesecker, Barbara A. “Of Historicity, Rhetoric: The Archive As Scene of Invention.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9, no. 1 (2006): 124-131, doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0018.

Blouin, Francis X., and William G. Rosenberg, eds. Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays From the Sawyer Seminar. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.

Bowker, Geoffrey C. “The Archive.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7, no. 2 (2010): 212-214, doi:10.1080/14791421003775733.

Bradley, Harriet. “The Seductions of the Archive: Voices Lost and Found.” History of the Human Sciences 12, no. 2 (1999): 107-122, doi:10.1177/09526959922120270.

Brown, Richard Harvey, and Beth Davis-Brown. “The Making of Memory: The Politics of Archives, Libraries and Museums in the Construction of National Consciousness.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 17-32, doi:10.1177/095269519801100402.

Burton, Antoinette, ed. Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

———. Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home, and History in Late Colonial India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Chang, Briankle G. “To the Archive: A Postal Tale.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7, no. 2 (2010): 202-206, doi:10.1080/14791421003790872.

Davis, Natalie Zemon. Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987.

Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Translated by Eric Prenowitz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Douglas, Susan J. “Writing From the Archive: Creating Your Own.” The Communication Review 13, no. 1 (2010): 5-14, doi:10.1080/10714420903558613.

Finnegan, Cara A. “What Is This a Picture Of?: Some Thoughts on Images and Archives.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9, no. 1 (2006): 116-123, doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0023.

Foucault, Michel. “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.” In The Foucault Reader. Edited by Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.

Hobbs, Richard. “Boltanski’s Visual Archives.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 121-140, doi:10.1177/095269519801100408.

Houck, David W. “On or About June 1988.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9, no. 1 (2006): 132-137, doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0025.

Joyce, Patrick. “The Politics of the Liberal Archive.” History of the Human Sciences 12, no. 2 (1999): 35-49, doi:10.1177/09526959922120234.

Kemp, Sandra. “The Archive on Which the Sun Never Sets: Rudyard Kipling.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 33-48, doi:10.1177/095269519801100403.

Lassman, Peter. “Another Illusion of the Epoch.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 149-157, doi:10.1177/095269519801100410.

Levy, Neil. “History As Struggle: Foucault’s Genealogy of Genealogy.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 159-170, doi:10.1177/095269519801100411.

Lynch, Michael. “Archives in Formation: Privileged Spaces, Popular Archives and Paper Trails.” History of the Human Sciences 12, no. 2 (1999): 65-87, doi:10.1177/09526959922120252.

Marcus, George E. “The Once and Future Ethnographic Archive.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 49-63, doi:10.1177/095269519801100404.

Morris III, Charles E. “Archival Queer.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9, no. 1 (2006): 145-151, doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0028.

———. “The Archival Turn in Rhetorical Studies; Or, the Archive’s Rhetorical (Re) Turn.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9, no. 1 (2006): 113-115, doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0027.

———. “Richard Halliburton’s Bearded Tales.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 95, no. 2 (2009): 123-147, doi:10.1080/00335630902842061.

Myerson, George. “The Electronic Archive.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 85-101, doi:10.1177/095269519801100406.

Osborne, Thomas. “The Ordinariness of the Archive.” History of the Human Sciences 12, no. 2 (1999): 51-64, doi:10.1177/09526959922120243.

Packer, Jeremy. “What Is An Archive?: An Apparatus Model for Communications and Media History.” The Communication Review 13, no. 1 (2010): 88-104, doi:10.1080/10714420903558720.

Rand, Richard. “Thoughts on “Archive Fever”.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7, no. 2 (2010): 207-211, doi:10.1080/14791421003775725.

Robertson, Craig. “Historicizing the Archive.” The Communication Review 13, no. 1 (2010): 1-4, doi:10.1080/10714420903558605.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “The Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in Reading the Archives.” History and Theory 24, no. 3 (1985): 247-272. JSTOR.

Steedman, Carolyn. Dust: The Archive and Cultural History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

———. “The Space of Memory: In An Archive.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 65-83, doi:10.1177/095269519801100405.

Sterne, Jonathan. “Rearranging the Files: On Interpretation in Media History.” The Communication Review 13, no. 1 (2010): 75-87, doi:10.1080/10714420903558704.

Stoler, Ann Laura. “Archival Dis-Ease: Thinking Through Colonial Ontologies.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7, no. 2 (2010): 215-219, doi:10.1080/14791421003775741.

Stuckey, Mary E. “Presidential Secrecy: Keeping Archives Open.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9, no. 1 (2006): 138-144, doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0031.

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Turner, Charles. “Going Down.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 141-148, doi:10.1177/095269519801100409.

Velody, Irving. “The Archive and the Human Sciences: Notes Towards a Theory of the Archive.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 1-16, doi:10.1177/095269519801100401.

Zajko, Vanda. “Myth As Archive.” History of the Human Sciences 11, no. 4 (1998): 103-119, doi:10.1177/095269519801100407.

Zelizer, Barbie, ed. Explorations in Communication and History. London: Routledge, 2008.

4 thoughts on “Reflecting on Archives (with a Bib-in-Progress)”

  1. I’d add my own:
    Beard, David. 2008 [published 2009]. From work to text to document. Archival Science 8, no. 3: 217–226
    …which looks more solidly at work by actual archivists. A lot of the work on archives is philosophical imagining about archives as an epistemological/cultural force. I’m more interested in what rhetoricians think archives are, and how that disconnects from what archivists think archives are.

    1. Nice! That seems like an interesting essay, David. As a slight counterpoint, I kind of wonder what you’d say about about Conquergood’s challenge to the “text” metaphor (Dwight Conquergood, “Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research,” The Drama Review 46, no. 2 [2002]: 145-56, doi:10.1162/105420402320980550) and it’s uptake especially within Latin@ comm studies. In other words, many of us reject “text,” which changes how we approach documents. Furthermore, archives I visit have an activist history and thrust, which changes how the archivists themselves approach, understand, and enunciate their collections. No argument here … just a lot of questions. I’ll definitely be reading your piece more closely soon. 🙂

Comments are closed.