Archival Science

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 221–238

Archival temples, archival prisons: Modes of power and protection

  • Eric Ketelaar

DOI: 10.1007/BF02435623

Cite this article as:
Ketelaar, E. Archival Science (2002) 2: 221. doi:10.1007/BF02435623


Public and private organizations depend, for their disciplinary and surveillance power, on the creation and maintenance of records. Entire societies may be emprisoned in Foucauldian panopticism, a system of surveillance and power-knowledge, based on and practised by registration, filing, and records. Archives resemble temples as institutions of surveillance and power architecturally, but they also function as such, because the panoptical archive disciplines and controls through knowledge-power. Inside the archives, the rituals, surveillance, and discipline serve to maintain the power of the archives and the archivist. But the archives' power is (or should be) the citizen's power too. The violation of human rights is documented in the archives and the citizen who defends himself appeals to the archives. People value “storage” as a means to keep account of the present for the future. In order to be useable as instruments of empowerment and liberation, archives have to be secured as storage memory serving society's future functional memories.


archives human rights knowledge-power panopticism surveillance 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Ketelaar
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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