This week we studied about the archive and how it relates to ones objects or materials. We saw the importance of archives through the eyes of two great philosophers Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. We were also asked to create an archive of our own, relating to our respective object.
The Oxford Dictionary defines archive as “a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution or group of people”, but is it really that simple? Derrida (1994) pointed out that “nothing is less clear today than the word archive” (as cited in Manoff 2004). An archive usually refers to repositories of artefacts, manuscripts or cultural objects across various platforms like museums and libraries. So what happens when the archive goes digital? Liu (n.d.) states that just the term archive is now considered as a metaphor for what we are currently not able to understand in the world of digital collections (as cited in Manoff 2004). Today to precisely define an archive is quite challenging due to the mere ambiguity of the word.
Both Derrida and Foucault were interested in the meaning of the archive. Derrida was interested in the archive and the idea of collection like stamp collecting, DVD collecting etc. He explains the archival fever as to “have a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, and irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic lace of absolute commencement” (Manoff 2004).
Foucault on the other hand, was particularly interested in the history of the human archive like the census, and the act of identifying people with their sexualities. Foucault believed that with the help of the human archive we could better manage ourselves and label ourselves thus leading to a ‘well-behaved society’.
For my object, I have created a small archive of other objects that provide me with a similar sense of desire and nostalgia. My personal archive is relatively variant to a scholarly archive, a solitary researcher or a flaneur. I belong in a particular group – one that has rather become common today, “the activity of individuals in everyday life who seek to preserve documents, photographs, diaries and recordings to develop their own archives as memory devices” (Featherstone 2006).
The first object is a necklace my sister bought for me while we were out shopping for her wedding (2014). With only a two and half year gap, my sister and I are very close. Surprisingly her wedding shopping was more fun than I had imagined (with the stereotype of panicky brides-to-be and what not!)
The second object is a tiny hairclip a friend randomly got for me (2010) after a small fall-out between us. At the time I was strangely obsessed with the colour purple (I know, why?!) Though I’ve never worn this hair clip and probably never will, I keep it with me at all times. It’s a solid reminder of our college days.
The third object is a set of tealight candle holders I bought for myself (2013). They remind me of my time in Mumbai city and of all the things I learnt there. I was working with a large and diverse team; I had 109 people in my team and they all ranged from 18 to 50 years old. I strongly believe that a good leader not only leads but learns from his team as well, and I kept that well in mind while working in Mumbai city.
- Derrida, J., and Prenowitz, E. (1995) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Chicago: John Hopkins University Press
- Featherstone (2006) ‘Archive’. Theory, Culture and Society 23 (2-3), 591-596
- Manoff, M. (2006) ‘Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines’. Portal: Libraries and the Academy 4, 9-25
- Oxford Dictionary (n.d.) Archive Definition [online] available from <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/archive > [02 Feb 2016]