of forces.32 Said is constantly making reference to knowledge, yet never to where
that knowledge was stored for later use - the archive.
Historian Tony Ballantyne comes close to defining the effects of colonialism on
archives (and of archives on colonialism) but falls short of determining how
this relates to the colonized. Archivists and historians have long disagreed on
the significance and role of archives in research, and Ballantyne acknowledges
this when he says that '[e]ven those historians sensitive to the occlusions of
the imperial archive typically view archives as enclosed, static, and discreet,
rather than the product of the constant circulation of information and the
heavy intertextuality of many forms of knowledge.'33 It is even his belief that
'the archive has become deeply problematic; the manuscript collections,
parliamentary papers, court records, periodicals, and newspapers used by
historians of South Asia are not simply documents that allow us to access the
colonial past, but rather themselves were constitutive of the multiple inequalities
of that past.'34 What is interesting about Ballantyne's article is that he is not
talking about theoretical archives or archives in a broad sense; in many ways he
is writing about the state archives being discussed here. However, his chapter
is heavily based on the imperial archive, and not archives since independence.
Though he fails to look at the contemporary state of archives and their
relationship to the colonial structure - the fact they were formed by colonists,
the fact their organizational history is based on a colonial blueprint - Ballantyne
is still a historian who at least recognizes the importance of archives not only as
where research is done, but as entities on which to do research.
Archives and Collective Memory
This relationship of archives to the colonial structure should cause archivists to
question how national archives can truly be a country's collective memory when
the records are created by a ruling class, maintained by highly-trained specialists,
and viewed by not a majority of the population, but by passionate researchers -
who are not necessarily citizens of that nation. While archives 'mirror the society
that creates them,' to say without reservation that the archive is the collective
memory, as so many archivists do, is incredibly dangerous and overlooks a
number of facts.35 Paul Ricoeur was discussing archives when he called the
rejection of collective memory 'the suicide of history,' and though the quote
alone is arguably true, we must look deeper at collective memory and archives
to see whether the two are linked, and what it means if they are.36
The idea of collective memory is much greater than what is in an archive alone.
It is the spoken and unspoken ideals and histories that make a society or group.
A corporation can have its own collective memory amongst its longtime staff as
easily as a country can have a collective memory amongst its citizens. Collective
memories are also able to evolve over time. John F. Kennedy is remembered fondly
today, no matter what people thought of him in 1963, because his life was cut
short and due to the turbulence that followed after his death.
COLONIAL LEGACY IN SOUTH EAST ASIA -
THE DUTCH ARCHIVES
32 Said, Orientalism203.
33 Ballantyne, 'Rereading the Archive', 113.
34 Tony Ballantyne, 'Rereading the Archive', 106.
35 Samuels, 'Who Controls the Past,', 195.
36 Ricoeur, 'Archives, Documents, Traces,', 68.
37 Banasik and Pennebacker, 'On the Creation', 6.