Writing Home in the Archive: "Refugee Memory" and the Ethnography of Documentation
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The archive appears to have taken the place of historical narrative as a key locus for critical historical rebection . This shift from historiography to the archive has a number of implications. For one, it draws attention from the closed authoritative historiography to the multiplicity of texts involved in documenting the past and to their open potential for generating future histories.1 Besides the historian-author, many other actors—archivists, informants, donors, and researchers of various kinds— are revealed to animate the archive. This sociality contrasts sharply with the stereotype of the archive as solitary and lifeless. The archive is also characterized by a diverse range of practices, including reading, classifying, reclassifying, documenting, donating, destroying, hiding, hoarding, collecting, and exposing. The relative invisibility of these activities, in contrast to the “heroism” of writing , is not coincidental but dependent on and conarming of gender, class, and ethnic hierarchies of scholarship. Thinking of the archive as a “process whereby texts are written” rather than as a mere “accumulation” (Echevarr ía 1998, 24) of documents provides a framework for a textual anthropology of the archive that focuses on the social interactions, layered temporalities, and rhetorical forms generated by and generating archival categories and documents.2 The archive also introduces a materiality sorely lacking in treatments of history as narrative, thus bringing into focus the political economy of archival production. While classic works of historiography can be reproduced and circulated without particular regard for their status as artifact, archives are deaned by their connection to the authenticity of the original. The epistemology of archives is not static or universal, of course, but shaped by culturally and historically contingent technologies , genres, and habits of documentation. Although for Derrida, the archive occupies a “privileged topology” (1996, 3) close to power, it might be more useful to think of archives (and counterarchives) as located simply in some kind of relation to power. The monumentality of archives (or their conspicuous lack of monumentality) symbolizes the relative coherence of the collectivities that have created them, whether families, nation-states, political parties, or transnational communities . The archive according to Derrida must have an exterior (“No archive without outside” [1996, 11]) in order to have an interior that can be concealed. Everyday practices of governing can be read from the lineaments of archives while “actions of access” represent a powerful tool of political legitimation (Stoler, this volume ). The archive is always a fantasy of the political. Given new relevance by the pragmatic concerns of archival construction in the age of digitization, the current interest in the cultural history of archives and archiving has been concerned primarily with powerful states, usually former colonial powers (for instance, Richards 1993; Combe 1994; Stoler, this volume). The present essay, which concerns a minor Greek archive, approaches the subject of the archive from a deliberately ex-centric location . I ask what might be learned from looking to the margins of Europe, to personal rather than state archives and to the archiving practices of those who are not professional historians or archivists. How might this perspective 402 ⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮ Writing Home in the Archive “Refugee Memory” and the Ethnography of Documentation Penelope Papailias ⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯ contribute to understanding relations of power between and within societies, as well as the intersection of people’s lives with contested processes of public recollection? Anatolia in Athens: Private Archives, National Contexts Indeed, Greece would seem a most unpromising place to study archival culture. If the monumental architecture of the state archives of major European countries imposingly proclaim their colonial pasts and contemporary authority , the fact that the Greek state archives were settled in a permanent building almost a century after their establishment in 1914 speaks eloquently to Greece’s position in global hierarchies.3 In any case, much of the material needed to write a history of modern Greece is housed in foreign archives, such as the British Foreign Oface, the American State Department, and the Ottoman archives, testifying to various regimes of direct and indirect domination and rule. Perhaps the only truly “successful ” archiving project in modern Greek history was that undertaken by the security police. Thus, for many Greeks, the words cle (fakelos) and archives (archeia) bring to mind political surveillance long before historical scholarship.4 In this context, though, it is perhaps understandable why private and independent archives abound in Greek society, some aiming to supplement, others to subvert, the order and content of state archives.5 The subject of this essay is just such an archive, set up to collect the testimonies...