A Postcolonial Archive? On the Paradox of Practice in a Northwest Alaska Project.
Archivaria: The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists, 61
In this paper, I explore contradictions between postcolonialism and the institutional practices in the creation of an oral history archive in northwest Alaska. As a project, postcolonialism often harnesses an interpretive de-centering of the resources that power has colonized. The materiality of a local institutional archive, on the other hand, is created through the geographical centering of historical material. The production of such an archive thereby renders one effect most visibly: the constitution of historical subjects. To what extent do these two projects – postcolonialism and the making of an archive – then work toward different purposes? The paper examines the ambiguities of postcolonialism first as an index of historical-geographical space, then as a collective intellectual project. To illustrate contradictions between postcolonialism and the making of an archive, the paper substantiates these considerations through an example: the contemporary production of an oral history archive in northwest Alaska. The example serves on both registers: as a project sited in what may be said to be a “postcolonial” geography, and as a potentially postcolonial endeavor. I argue that the first description is off the mark, and that institutional endeavors to build an oral history archive in northwest Alaska, while ostensibly working against a history of colonialism, nonetheless re-inscribe various powers of colonialism.
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