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Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense
Along the Archival Grain offers a unique methodological and analytic opening to the affective registers of imperial governance and the political content of archival forms. In a series of nuanced mediations on the nature of colonial documents from the nineteenth-century Netherlands Indies, Ann Laura Stoler identifies the social epistemologies that guided perception and prac ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published November 3rd 2008 by Princeton University Press
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A fascinating dig into the intricacies, frustrations, and nuances of archival research and a meditation on considering the frame of mind of the sources before using them to reach conclusions. Unfortunately, this book is a slog to get through-- particularly the first two chapters on archival theory-- without a Ph.D. in linguistics.
This book is less about the contents of the Dutch colonial archive and more about providing innovative ways to work with it. In this book, Ann Stoler develops some concepts--"imperial disregard", "historical negatives" and "hierarchies of credibility"--which will provide many scholars with new ways to approach their own studies. As always, the breadth scholarship Stoler draws upon is impressive, as well as the unexpected connections between different academic debates.
Has to be among the more over-written books I've ever read, next to William Connolly's, The Ethos of Pluralization. She likes to hear herself write complete nonsensical sentences. Two points I took: 1) the value of archival work at "bringing out" previously concealed truths about others and 2) how historians essentially create visions of people based on the archival data.
Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense by Ann Laura Stoler was published in 2009. It might be useful to deconstruct the title of this book to start. The first part of the title "Along the archival grain" refers to the goal of the book. Stoler, a critical and colonial historian, has been studying Dutch colonial archives for numerous years focusing on the Dutch East Indies for this book. The book "is about such a colonial order of things as seen through the record ...more
Having finished Along the Archival Grain, I can safely say that my feelings on this book were much less mixed than I expected them to be. Stoler is a clear, engaging writer, and her decision to make the next to last chapter about colonial murders kept my admittedly poor grad student attention span clicking along quite well. I enjoyed reading this book, and there are several people to which I'd recommend it. However, I am not entirely sure that this is a work of history so much as it's a work of ...more
Really climaxed in its Capote-esque Cold Blood murder analysis, but the general archival density and the over-focus on written correspondence loses the argument by the end. "State secrets" mixed with the mundane racial speculations fail to evince a coherent thread.