Ever since the 1970s, movements in the social sciences and humanities s have encouraged an increasing epistemological scrutiny of such concepts as representation, authenticity and objectivity, and their relationship to matters of power and authority. Archival thinking, however, has remained largely isolated from the broader intellectual landscape, and archival practice has remained curiously bound up in modes of thought and practice distinctly rooted in 19th century Positivism. Archivists have even resisted the efforts of those within their own ranks to challenge this isolation and re-situate the premises of archival identity in a larger intellectual context. This essay suggests that archivists can draw meaningful comparisons by reading outside their field in disciplines, such as anthropology, with which archives shares key features, such as a central concern with issues of representation and description. In this essay, key anthropological writings throughout the last century of anthropology are examined against a backdrop of trends in archival thinking, contrasting the tumultuous epistemological debate within anthropology with the relative calm in the archival profession. This contrast is strikingly embodied by the coincidence of the publication, in 1922, and both in London, of leading theorists from both fields: Bronislaw Malinowski and Sir Hilary Jenkinson. The essay suggests that, in order to remain relevant and conversant with our partners and stakeholders, archivists must take the matter of their isolation seriously as an exercise in self-reflection. More important, archivists must devise practicable ways to continue to do archival work without the positivist blinders of the past.
Elisabeth Kaplan, 'Many paths to partial truths:' archives, anthropology, and the power of representation. Archival Science: International Journal of Recorded Information, 2:4 (2002) 209-220.
REQUIRED PUBLISHER STATEMENT:
The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
'Many paths to partial truths:' archives, anthropology, and the power of representation.
Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.