Rethinking the Archives: Literature as an Other-Archive

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:50 PM
Embassy Room (Omni Shoreham)
Brahim El Guabli, Princeton University
Archives are loci of power where state hegemony is reproduced and sustained through the stories they allow to be told and the ones they suppress. Derrida in his classical work Mal d'archive: une impression freudienne (1995) equates archives with commencement and commandment, which indicates that s/he who collects, selects, appraises and gives access to the archives wields also power over which stories could be told and which ones to occult. Archives have also been likened to a carceral space, where both documents and scholars are detained or consigned (Jimerson, 2010, Derrida, 1995). Nonetheless, these suggestions only apply, it should be said, to contexts in which states are actually invested in creating archives for their posterity. Morocco is an illustration of how an authoritarian regime erases archival sources, thus giving literature the opportunity to be the other-archives in which silenced stories find their way to the public arena and resist authoritarian amnesia. This paper provides a reading of testimonial and mnemonic literatures asother-archives in which, I argue, emerge new (hi)stories and novel conceptions of historiography. Other-archives are therefore conceptualized as open and readily available textual sites where the hitherto oppressed/forgotten voices find agency in testimonial and mnemonic writings. Given archives’ importance for history writing, these literary, open sources, I contend, create the conditions for a heteroglossic history over which state control is either absent or very limited. Not only do these other-archives, as I theorize them, allow the inscription of the voices of the subaltern into the other-archival documents, but they also help to decenter history and historiographical discourses. This decentering results in the transfer of archival power to the victims of silence, trauma and oppression, who, despite the state’s overwhelming power, recover their mnemonic and historiographical agency through the inscription of the stories the state attempts to suppress.