where [t]he identity which it [the archive] contains is a distorted identity, hence
its preservation can only distort the identity' of the colonized.52
The Singapore Example
When Foucault says that '[f]or the word to be able to say what it says, it must
belong to a grammatical totality which, in relation to the word, is primary,
fundamental, and determining'53 he may very well be defining the word and
language as a whole as the way 'the things of the world could be known.'54
When language was written and recorded, its chances of not just knowing, but
remembering knowledge, were increased exponentially, as was the case of British
bureaucratic colonialists.55 The idea that a word must belong to a totality can
then move beyond spoken language to the written record. For a record to be able
to say what it says, the viewer must look at it in terms of something larger. Let us
take the following record from the National Archives of Singapore, one of many
that look similar, as an example:56
Description: Records Supreme Court of Judicature: Patent Rolls,
C66/4313 - Letters Patent for the Court of Judicature for Prince of Wales
Island, Singapore and Malacca, Chancery and Supreme Court of Judicature.
Patent Rolls. 9 Geo IV Part 11, 27 November 1826
Microfilm No: NAB 1293
PCD/PDF No: D2006100085
Source: The National Archives, United Kingdom
Custodial History: Purchased from The National Archives, United Kingdom
as part of NAS' acquisition programme
Scope and Content: Letters Patent granting royal approval for the new Court
of Judicature (new charter)
Access: 02-Open with restriction Reading and note taking only.
While archives often have active acquisition programs to obtain new records,
the idea that the national archive of an independent country must purchase
its own history from a former colonial master brings up many questions. This
situation calls to mind Jeannette Allis Bastian's survey of the U.S. Virgin Islands
recovering its archives in Owning Memory. Bastian's book studies the effects of
colonialism on the archives of the islands, including the difficulty historians
have in accessing primary sources.57 An inability to view sources in turn creates
an inability to write a complete history of your culture.
We have already credited archives as existing to 'solidify and memorialize...
state power' and sustaining 'cultural traditions and values,' but now we will
look deeper at what both quotes mean in terms of postcolonialism. In the case
COLONIAL LEGACY IN SOUTH EAST ASIA -
THE DUTCH ARCHIVES
52 Murove, 'Preserving our Collective Memory', 15.
53 Foucault, The Order of Things, 281.
54 Foucault, The Order of Things, 296.
55 While certain British colonies had written language prior to colonization elsewhere in the British Empire
cultures relied solely on oral traditions. Furthermore, even in colonies with writing systems, English