robertogreco + memories + imagination   2

Arjun Appadurai | archive public
"Archive and Aspiration

Social memory remains a mystery to most of us. True, there has been much excellent work by psychologists, neurologists and other sorts of critics about the workings of collective memory. Yet, there is a deep gap between our understandings of the externalities of memory and its internalities. This is a kind of Cartesian gap too, this time not between mind and body but between the biochemistry of memory and its social locations and functions. The arrival of the electronic archive, with its non-hierarchical, digital and para-human characteristics, sometimes seems to have widened this gap, since there is no easy way to get from the neural maps implied in most visions of biological memory and the social maps referred to in such wonderful images as Pierre Nora’s image of the ‘places of memory’. This gap between the neural locus of memory and its social location creates a variety of challenges for different fields and disciplines.

Memory and the Archive

In the humanist imagination, the archive is no more than a social tool for the work of collective memory. It is a neutral, or even ethically benign, tool which is the product of a deliberate effort to secure the most significant portions of what Maurice Halbwachs called ‘the prestige of the past’. Its quintessential expression is the document, a graphic trace, usually a written text, whose accidental survival has been reinforced by the protection offered to it by the archive. In this sense the archive is an empty box, a place, a site or an institution, whose special role is the guardianship of the document. Over time, the idea of the document has been broadened to include artifacts, monuments, products, even whole neighborhoods and cities. UNESCO’s longstanding mission to conserve important monuments as tributes to human heritage is, in fact, a product of this ethical view of the archive as a container or body, animated by something less visible – usually the spirit of a people, the people, or humanity in general."

"Thus, we should begin to see all documentation as intervention, and all archiving as part of some sort of collective project. Rather than being the tomb of the trace, the archive is more frequently the product of the anticipation of collective memory. Thus the archive is itself an aspiration rather than a recollection. This deep function of the archive has been obscured by that officializing mentality, closely connected to the governmentalities of the nation-state, which rests on seeing the archive as the tomb of the accidental trace, rather than as the material site of the collective will to remember."

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archives  archiving  imagination  memory  collectivism  humanism  humanities  arjunappadurai  foucault  migration  aspiration  memorygaps  desire  memories  socialmemory  arjenmulder  michelfoucault 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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