Forged and Continually Refashioned in the Crucible of Ongoing Social and Political Life: Archives and Custodial Practices as Subjects of Enquiry

Forged and Continually Refashioned in the Crucible of Ongoing Social and Political Life: Archives and Custodial Practices as Subjects of Enquiry

Author: 
Hamilton, Carolyn
Publisher: 
Taylor & Francis
Date published: 
2013
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
South African Historical Journal
Source: 
South African Historical Journal, Vol. 65, Issue 1, March 2013, pp. 1-22
Abstract: 

Shaped as much by fractures, uncertainties and changes in contemporary social and political life, the current dilapidation of the South African national archival system is a more complex problem than simply a matter of inefficiency and bias. The paper argues that any attempts to analyse its current situation with a view to changing it, or indeed to understand in any situation why some things are preserved in certain forms, others in other forms, and some things not at all, requires us to recognise that archives, and other preservatory forms, are artefacts, with linked practices and processes, forged and continually refashioned in the crucible of ongoing social and political life. In mapping out something of the range and form of contemporary engagements with inherited and newly collected materials about the past, looking at how they were, and are, entered into the record, and how those records change over time, the essay raises questions about the roles of archives and archive-like activities in contemporary, and past, social life. Making and maintaining archives, and the host of practices with similar features, are things that people do, for complex reasons, and in a variety of ways. In refiguring archive-as-source as archive-as-subject, the essay recognises archives as simultaneously sites of storage and as practices in social life. The paper goes on to examine the range of methods which researchers from a variety of disciplines mobilise – historical, ethnographic, literary and biographical – in order to examine records as historical and contemporary subjects of investigation in their own right rather than simply as the storehouses of sources used by historians.

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CITATION: Hamilton, Carolyn. Forged and Continually Refashioned in the Crucible of Ongoing Social and Political Life: Archives and Custodial Practices as Subjects of Enquiry . : Taylor & Francis , 2013. South African Historical Journal, Vol. 65, Issue 1, March 2013, pp. 1-22 - Available at: http://library.au.int/forged-and-continually-refashioned-crucible-ongoing-social-and-political-life-archives-and-custodi-4