In defending the book and its protocols of reading against the rise of the digital archive, Sven Birkerts worries that "in the theoretically infinite database, all work is present and available—and, in a way, equal." Rather than lamenting this fact, this essay argues that we might recognize such availability as the condition of possibility for cultural studies itself. After first theorizing about the "frenetic" reading practices generated by the digital archive, this essay then engages in an experiment: tracing the use of the word "imperialism" through the digitized version of a British weekly entitled The New Age. The results not only re-embed this now monolithic term in a more complex and unstable historical context, but also point to a new type of synchronic and non-linear critical practice.


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pp. 411-426
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