Part V. Archives and Social Understanding in States Undergoing Rapid Transition (China, Postwar Japan, Postwar Greece, Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans)
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As the essays grouped in this anal section indicate, an important aspect of the Michigan seminar was its attention to the particular circumstances of archives in China, Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans. Our concern here was not only to engage archivists and archival historians from these regions in the broader discussion with colleagues from other regions, but to extend the points of comparison between archives in stable or relatively stable states to those in states in the process of rapid and even radical transition. With China, Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans, these discussions naturally centered even more directly on the question of archival politics. The relationship between state archives and governments necessarily involves politics in any society, as we have noted. So, indeed, does the relationship between nonstate archives and the organizations or collectives that sponsor them. Implicit in the organization of any repository is the idea that its collections will serve the state or society in ways its sponsors intend. The knowledge produced by and through the archive is assumed to serve rather explicit goals and needs, whether they are those of the state, the public, or individuals. As the essays by Atina Grossman and Robert Adler elsewhere in this volume testify , individuals as different as American presidents and the children of Holocaust survivors can be extremely reluctant to deposit their private papers in an archive that serves broader interests, fearing their own archived story might not be properly researched and told. Politics also affects archives in other ways, however, and again in all societies and all archives. Questions of acquisition, appraisal, preservation, and especially access are fundamentally political ones in the sense that they involve the application of quite considerable power in the name of quite particular values and goals. What distinguishes an archive from a collection of memorabilia is, in part, the application of a speciac set of criteria about what should and should not be acquired and preserved, and for whom. Even in the most democratic of societies and the most accessible of archives, decisions about all of these matters rebect certain political values and interests, whether these are rebected formally, in charters or legislation (such as the U.S. Federal Records Act), or informally and more crudely, as in the former Soviet Union. In either case, the archival scholar is always engaged with the politics of protected knowledge and the interests that created it. As Penelope Papailias writes in her fascinating analysis of the ways refugee memory and the Ottoman past were archived in postwar Athens, the archive is always in some way a process whereby texts of a particular sort are “written.” That these texts can serve profound individual and social needs, or crude, single-minded political purpose, is clear from the essays by Leslie Pincus and Robert Donia. Pincus explores what she calls a “revolution in the archives of memory” that occurred with the founding of the National Diet Library in occupied Japan after 1945. She movingly shows how this struggle was driven in large part by the need to give voice to the trauma of war, to and meaning to attach to almost indescribable loss. The struggle to create a National Diet Library after the Hiroshima 379 ⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮ part v Archives and Social Understanding in States Undergoing Rapid Transition (China, Postwar Japan, Postwar Greece, Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans) ⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯ and Nagasaki bombings was very much a struggle over how and why the past could be remembered, how, as Pincus describes it, collective memory could be produced “in different registers and with different ideological valences .” The library was imagined as “a vast repository for the accumulated past of humankind, as a memory machine for emergent forms of collective organization, and as a site for new, democratic forms of deliberative practice .” Donia’s contribution on libraries and archives in postsocialist Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand, is about precisely the opposite impulse: the deliberate strategy on the part of the Serbs to obliterate meaning by burning libraries and turning their artillery on speciac archives and museums. Donia calls this “memoricide.” In this case, the texts “written” by these archives and libraries were about unacceptable pasts and hence inadmissible futures. Their destruction was part of a deliberate attempt to destroy the possibilities of collective memory by obliterating its physical and documentary referents. Participants in the seminar may have assumed that deliberate strategies of this sort underlay archival practices in Communist China and Soviet Russia, since the politicalization of historical analysis and state control over information...