Archival Science

, Volume 2, Issue 3–4, pp 221–238 | Cite as

Archival temples, archival prisons: Modes of power and protection

  • Eric Ketelaar


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 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Robert A. Salvatore,Star Wars. Episode II. Attack of the Clones, based on the story by George Lucas and the screenplay by George Lucas and Jonathan Hales (New York: Ballantine Books, 2002), pp. 155–160, here 160.Google Scholar
  2. 2. Scholar
  3. 3.
    Eric Ketelaar, “Archivalisation and Archiving”,Archives and Manuscripts 27 (May 1999): 54–61, quote on 57.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    James C. Scott,Seeing Like a State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 82–83; Alain Desrosières, “How to Make Things which Hold Together: Social Science, Statistics and the State”, in P. Wagner, B. Wittrock and R. Whitley (eds.),Discourses on Society: The Shaping of the Social Sciences Disciplines, Sociology of Sciences Yearbook 15 (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990), p. 208; Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star,Sorting Things Out. Classification and Its Consequences (Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Jacques Derrida,Archive Fever (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 17.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Tom Nesmith, “Still Fuzzy, But More Accurate: Some Thoughts on the ‘Ghosts’ of Archival Theory”,Archivaria 47 (Spring 1999): 146.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Francis X. Blouin, “Archivists, Mediation, and Constructs of Social Memory”,Archival Issues 24(2) (1999): 101–112; Compare also two papers presented in the seminar “Archives, Documentation and the Institutions of Social Memory,” organized by the Bentley Historical Library and the International Institute of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2000–2001: Nancy Bartlett, “Past Imperfect (l'imparfait): Mediating Meaning in the Archives”; and Kathy Marquis, “From Dragons at the Gate to Research Partners: The Reference Archivist as Mediator”.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    “Regulation (EC) nr. 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council on 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents”,Official Journal of the European Communities L 145/43, also available at: Scholar
  9. 9.
    Eric Ketelaar, “Archives of the People, By the People, For the People”,S.A. Argiefblad/S.A. Archives Journal 34 (1992): 5–16, reproduced in Eric Ketelaar,The Archival Image. Collected Essays (Hilversum: Verloren, 1997), pp. 15–26.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Adrian Cunningham, “The Soul and Conscience of the Archivist: Meditations on Power, Passion and Positivism in a Crusading Profession”,Argiefnuus/Archives News 43(4) (June 2001): 167–177, here 173.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Verne Harris,Exploring Archives: An Introduction to Archival Ideas and Practice in South Africa (Pretoria: National Archives, 2000), p. 8; Verne Harris, “The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa”,Archival Science 2 (2002), forthcoming.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Antonio González Quintana, “Archives of the Security Services of Former Repressive Regimes”,Janus (1998.2): 7–25.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Edwin Black,IBM and the Holocaust, (New York: Crown, 2001), p. 352.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Götz Aly and Karl Heinz Roth,Die restlose Erfassung. Volkszählen, Identifizieren, Aussondern im Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2000) (original edition: Berlin: Rotbuch Verlag, 1964); Carl J. Couch,Information Technologies and Social Orders (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1996), pp. 90–92.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Aly and Roth,Die restlose Erfassung,, p. 95.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ken Munden (ed.),Archives and the Public Interst. Selected Essays by Ernst Posner (Washington D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1967), p. 87.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Torsten Musial,Staatsarchive im Dritten Reich. Zür Geschichte des staatlichen Archivwesens in Deutschland 1933–1945 (Potsdam: Verlag fur Berlin-Brandenburg, 1996). See also Eric Ketelaar, “Archivistics Research Saving the Profession”,American Archivist 63 (2000): 322–340, here 331.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wolfgang Ernst, “Archival Action: The Archives as ROM and its Political Instrumentalization under National Socialism”,History of the Human Sciences 12(2) (May 1999): 13–34, here 25.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Derrida,Archive Fever,, p. 4.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Anthony Giddens,The Nation-State and Violence. Volume Two of A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1985), pp. 172–192; Anthony Giddens,A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism (Houndmills and London: Macmillan Press, 1995), pp. 174–176; Christopher Dandeker,Surveillance, Power and Modernity. Bureaucracy and Discipline from 1700 to the Present Day (Cambridge.: Polity Press, 1990); David Lyon,The Electronic Eye. The Rise of Surveillance Society (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994); Matt K. Matsuda,The Memory of the Modern (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Michel Foucault,Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon, 1975); Mark Poster,The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 89–91.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Richard F. Hamilton,The Social Misconstruction of Reality. Validity and Verification in the Scholarly Community (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1996), pp. 175–81.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    George F. Barwick,The Reading Room of the British Museum (London, 1929), and Philip R. Harris,The Reading Room (British Library, London, 1979), quoted by Jo Tollebeek, “Het Archief: de panoptische utopie van de historicus”, in Theo Thomassen, Bert Looper and Jaap Kloosterman (eds.),Toegang. Ontwikkelingen in de ontsluiting van archieven. Jaarboek 2001 Stichting Archiefpublicaties ('s-Gravenhage: Stichting Archiefpublicaties, 2001), pp. 76–91, here 88.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wolfgang Ernst,Das Rumoren der Archive. Ordnung aus Unordnung (Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2002), pp. 22–23, 78–79; Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault,Le désordre des familles. Lettres de cachet des archives de la Bastille (Paris: Gallimard, 1982).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Michel Foucault, “Truth and Juridical Forms”, in James D. Faubion (ed.),Michel Foucault. Power, Volume 3 (London: Penguin Books, 2002), pp. 58–59.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Dandeker,Surveillance, Power and Modernity,, pp. 150–192; Oscar H. Gandy Jr.,The Panoptic Sort. A Political Economy of Personal Information (Boulder, San Francisco, and Oxford: Westview Press, 1993), pp. 60–122.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gandy,The Panoptic Sort,, p. 1, 15; Poster,The Mode of Information., pp. 91–98.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Arthur R. Miller,The Assault on Privacy: Computers, Databanks, and Dossiers (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1971), quoted by Thomas S. McCoy, “Surveillance, Privacy and Power: Information Trumps Knowledge”,Communications 16 (1991): 33–47, here 35.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Bruno Latour, “Visualization and Cognition: Thinking with Eyes and Hands”,Knowledge and Society 6 (1986): 28. I thank Margaret Hedstrom for drawing my attention to this article.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Eric Ketelaar, “Understanding Archives of the People, by the People, and for the People”, in J.D. Bindenagel (ed.),Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets Proceedings (Washington D.C., 1999), pp. 749–761.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rowena MacDonald,Between Two Worlds. The Commonwealth Government and the Removal of Aboriginal Children of Part Descent in the Northern Territory (Alice Springs: IAD Press, 1995), pp. 72–73.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    “Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data,”Official Journal of the European Communities L 281/31, also available at: Scholar
  33. 33.
    Frederick C.J. Ketelaar, “Qui desiderat pacem”,Nederlands Archievenblad, 90 (1986): 97–102.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Vitaly Shentalinsky,The KGB's Literary Archive (London: The Harvill Press, 1997), pp. 170–175.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Lajos Körmendy, “Historical Challenges and Archivist's Responses, Hungary, 1945–2000”,Archivum 45 (2000): 41–53, here 49.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Quintana, “Archives of the Security Services”, Antonio González Quintana, “Archives of the Security Services of Former Repressive Regimes”,Janus (1998.2), 13.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Quintana, “Archives of the Security Services”, Antonio González Quintana, “Archives of the Security Services of Former Repressive Regimes”,Janus (1998.2), 10, calls this: the boomerang effect.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    John A. Fleckner, “‘Dear Mary Jane’: Some Reflections on Being an Archivist”,American Archivist 54 (Winter 1991): 8–13, reproduced in Randall C. Jimerson (ed.),American Archival Studies: Readings in Theory and Practice (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2000), pp. 21–28, here 26.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Aleida Assmann,Erinnerungsräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses (München: C.H. Beck, 1999), pp. 130–142; Eric Ketelaar, “The Archive as a Time Machine. Closing Speech of the DLM-Forum 2002, Barcelona, 8 May 2002”, forthcoming inINSAR Supplement, VI (2002).Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Assmann,Erinnerungsräume,, p. 136: “Es hält ein Zusatzwissen bereit, welches als Gedächtnis der Gedächtnisse dafür sorgen kann, daß real existierende Funktionsgedächtnisse kritisch relativiert und gegebenenfalls erneuert oder verändert werden können”. In so far Assmann implies that the storage memory is unalterable, I do not agree. The renewal and change of the functional memory changes the storage memory too. See Eric Ketelaar, “Tacit Narratives: The Meanings of Archives”,Archival Science 1 (2001): 143–155.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sue McKemmish, “Placing Records Continuum Theory and Practice”,Archival Science 1 (2001): 333–359, here 345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Assmann,Erinnerungsräume,, p. 409: “Archive können sowohl als Funktions- wie als Speichergedächtnis organisiert sein; im einen Falle enthalten sie jene Dokumente und Beweisstücke, die die Legitimationsgrundlage bestehender Machtverhältnisse absichern, im anderen Falle bergen sie potentielle Quellen, die die Grundlage des historischen Wissens einer Kultur ausmachen.”Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Michael Piggott and Colleen McEwen (eds.),Archivists. The Image and Future of the Profession (Canberra: Australian Society of Archivists, 1996), pp. 213–214.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ketelaar, “The Archive as a Time Machine”. Eric Ketelaar, “The Archive as a Time Machine. Closing Speech of the DLM-Forum 2002, Barcelona, 8 May 2002”, forthcoming inINSAR Supplement, VI (2002).Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Herman J. Viola,The National Archives of the United States (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984), p. 46.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Danièle Neirinck, “Les bâtiments d'archives”, in Jean Favier and Danièle Neirinck (eds.),La pratique archivistique française (Paris: Archives Nationales, 1993), p. 536.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ernst Posner,Archives in the Ancient World (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1972; reprinted: Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2002); Michael T. Clanchy,From Memory to Written Record. England 1066–1307, 2nd edn. (Oxford and Cambridge USA: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 154–157, 164.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Latour, “Visualization and Cognition”,, 29.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    With at least one exception: the public entering the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, sees — behind a glass wall, high up in the entrance hall — rows of archival boxes with the gold embossed presidential seal. They are — so I was told — empty, but they nevertheless give the impression that one beholds the presidential archives.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Arlette Farge,Le goût de l'archive (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1989), pp. 66–67.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Sonia Combe, “Reason and Unreason in Today's French Historical Research”,Telos 108 (Summer 1996): 149–164; Marcel Lajeunesse and François Gravel, “L'utilisation des archives pour la défense et la promotion des droits du citoyen”,Archivum 45 (2000): 177–178.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Michel Foucault, “Government Rationality: An Introduction” [original French version published inEsprit 371 (May 1968): 850–874], in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon and Peter Miller (eds.),The Foucault Effect. Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 60.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Martha Cooley,The Archivist (Boston etc.: Little, Brown and Company, 1998), p. 246. On some of the other implications of this novel see Verne Harris, “Knowing Right from Wrong: The Archivist And the Protection of People's Rights”, in Verne Harris (ed.),Archives and the Protection of People's Rights. Proceedings of the XVth General Biennial Conference of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives, Zanzibar, 26–30 July 1999, pp. 15–22, reprinted inJanus (1999.1): 32–38, reproduced in Harris,Exploring Archives, pp. 66–76; Eric Ketelaar, “The Ethics of Preserving and Destroying Private Archives”,Argiefnuus/Archives News 43(4) (June 2001) [Festschrift Verne Harris]: 70–77.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Nancy Bartlett, “The Healthy Distrust of the Archive's Inhabitant”, paper of commentary remarks presented to the seminar “Archives, Documentation and the Institutions of Social Memory”, organized by the Bentley Historical Library and the International Institute of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 13 September 2000. It was in fact this paper which caused me to rethink the way archivists are using instruments of surveillance and discipline.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Helen Wood, “The Fetish of the Document: An Exploration of Attitudes Towards Archives”, in Margaret Procter and C.P. Lewis (eds.),New Directions in Archival Research (Liverpool: Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies, 2000), pp. 20–48.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Lyon,The Electronic Eye,, p. 31.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Ibid., p. 219.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Verne Harris, “Of Fragments, Fictions and Powers: Resisting Neat Theorising about ‘The Record’”, available at Scholar
  59. 59.
    Derrida,Archive Fever,, p. 3.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations