providing detailed personal account of 'native' (non-European) cultures that
they encountered.'16 The work of these men filled the museums of Europe and
North America.17 Museums were 'respectable repositories of scientific knowledge
about the other,'18 as the collections of the Louvre and the British Museum
continue to attest. Between 2008 and 2010 Yale University and Peru were in
talks about artifacts that Hiram Bingham had gathered during his expedition to
Machu Picchu - which was funded with support from the National Geographic
Society, America's most well-known 19th century-founded organization
specializing in this field.19 This era, filled with names like Lawrence of Arabia,
Rudyard Kipling, Dr. Livingstone, and Howard Carter, is one of vast knowledge
that also saw the beginning of the British national archives.
The National Archives of the United Kingdom began as the Public Record
Office (PRO) in 1838. The reasoning behind national archives - to 'solidify
and memorialize...state power' - grows as the state does, as is evident in the
British Empire, where recording information solidified colonial rule.20 But the
fact that the PRO and the Empire were developed at the same time must not be
overlooked, though it often is. As the Empire grew, so did the archival collection.
As the archives grew, so did the desire for more information. For any government
or empire to become so powerful it must record its proceedings and must store
them centrally so that their power can be known and remembered. Prior to the
Public Record Office, 'England's public records lay scattered in fifty-six separate
record repositories, each of which was separately administered.'21 Consolidating
these distinct repositories under one roof, at the height of the British Empire, is
not unlike the growth of the Empire itself. Far-flung countries were merged into
one central being. The 19th century was, for both empire and archives, a time of
Archives and Postcolonialism
With a background on the British Empire now established, and the connection
between the Empire and records management made clear, the effects on today's
post-colonial states must be addressed. The questions of what postcolonial theory
is and when it began are rarely agreed upon by two theorists. Many point to
Edward Said's Orientalism as the seminal text of postcolonialism, though Jean-
Paul Sartre and others had been writing on the plight of Algerians under French
rule in a manner similar to modern postcolonialism decades before Said. Noted
contemporary postcolonial scholar Bill Ashcroft differentiates between the period
after colonialism (post-colonialism) and postcolonialism in that postcolonialism
'is colonialism's interlocutor and antagonist from the moment of colonization'
and 'the discourse of the colonized.'22 Of course 'the discourse of the colonized'
was greatly expanded in the 20th century during the post-colonial period, so the
confusion between the two is understandable. Ashcroft's definition puts aside the
differences between British, Spanish, French, Dutch, American, et al. imperialism
MICHAEL KARABINOS POST(-)cOLONIAL ARCHIVES
16 Prasad, 'The Return of the Native', 150.
17 Prasad, 'The Return of the Native', 151.
18 Prasad. 'The Return of the Native', 165.
19 Dan Collyns, 'Peru 'to sue Yale for Inca items,' BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.Uk/2/hi/americas/
7719583.stm, accessed November 15, 2008.
20 Steedman, Dust69.
21 Levin, The Amateur and the Professional101.
22 Ashcroft, 'Modernity's First Born', 191.