Session 3: Contextualizing Archival Practices and Traditions

Moderator: Alex Poole (Drexel University)
Writing Social History of Socialist Yugoslavia: The Archival Perspective / Vladan Vukliš (University of Banja Luka)

It has not been until recently that we could talk about a noticeable trend in research focusing on the social components of the 45 years long history of Second Yugoslavia (1945–1991). These components present themselves as possible research topics, such as the history of social relations, structures, labor, workers’ self-management, industrialization, social stratification, class conflict, housing, mass culture, consumption etc. While most of these issues inspired ongoing debates, it was not until the 1980s that a small number of historians started paying professional attention to the topics already studied by sociologists and philosophers. However, this newfound interest was quickly abandoned in the 1990s, as dominant historical narratives in now former, war-torn Yugoslav republics, developed a negative stance towards recent socialist past.

What is more important, historiography in (former) Yugoslavia was, and still is, dominated by a classic positivist paradigm, focused on political history, major events and leading personalities. But there seems to be a slow shift towards a modern socio-historical perspective. Increasing numbers of historians are turning to the new paradigm. A few of them, interested in the post-1945 period, turn to social and cultural history of Socialist Yugoslavia.

If this new trend in research is to be placed on solid ground, the first task for archivists should be to identify, appraise and describe on this basis. When analyzing the actual state of records important for the study of social history, three major categories can be discerned: 1 – records of “socio-political organizations” (the Communist Party, the Socialist Union and the trade unions), 2 – government and judicial records, and 3 – records of economic enterprises. Each of these groups has its specific importance, a different set of current conditions and a different history of treatment by its creators, custodians and archival institutions. The state of the second group is well known. From governments and ministries down to municipal councils, fonds are well preserved, the vast majority of them transferred to the archives, and a significant part available for research. On the other hand, problems with the third group are also well known. As a consequence of the wars in the 1990s, recession, and privatization, vast amount of records from the former Yugoslavia’s “industrial giants” has been lost. But the first group mentioned above, that of the political organizations and unions, should be considered to be the most important one from a socio-historical perspective, given the fact that it was the work of these organizations that initiated, interconnected, or at least analyzed all important social processes. A detailed assessment shows us that the entire body of fonds of this provenance is far from being well preserved. The majority of fonds seem to be incomplete or missing in total, especially at the lower levels. Beyond reevaluating and describing the state of these records in order to support current and future scholarship, this paper seeks to make some suggestions that could lead to the positive changes in archival practice, and a possible remedy for the situation.

Translated Versions of the Dutch Manual and Their Influences; Especially the Chinese Case / Shigekazu Yanagimachi (Kyushu University)

Archival Tradition of Each Nation: Archives are historical and geographical reality. Each nation, or even each entity has its own archival practice; thus there could be infinity of archival traditions and theories.

Problem of Archival Babeology: In our globalized and globalizing world, in which all peoples of all languages communicate one another, we encounter others; we encounter other peoples of different traditions, different ways of living, and different ways of organizing the environment. We encounter other archival traditions. Other archival traditions are not self-evident. We often have difficulty of understanding others, thus other archival universe. Even the same word frequently used in Archival scene sounds differently, means something else. Michel Duchein, Eric Ketelaar, and Bogdan-Florin Popovici talk about the Babel-ology in Archival Science.

Dutch Manual: In 1898, for the first time in the history, the archival theory was codified in a book, redacted in Dutch: Handleiding voor het ordenen en beschrijven van archieven, which is often called Dutch Manual.

Its translated versions: This Manual was translated in German (1905), Italian (1908), French (1910), Bulgarian (1912), English (1940), Chinese (1959), and Portuguese (1960). In 1910, the first Congress of Archivists and Librarians was convocated in Brussels. Many nations sent their delegates to the Congress; the archival principles such as “respect des fonds” or “respect of the first order were discussed, adopted, and diffused in more global archival communities. This Congress was following the principles articulated in the Dutch Manual, and it became a starting point for the globalization of archival principles. As Theodore Schellenberg called it “a bible for modern archivists”, the Dutch Manual has influenced considerably each nation’s archival tradition.

Japanese situation: Japan has a long history, thus has had archival practices for a long time, in the midst of political power shifts among regional lords, emperors, Kuge, Samurai, and temples. Since the modernization of Japan (after 1853), the Western archival practices have been introduced, with much difficulty. The National Archives of Japan had not been established until 1971. Archival legislation was fully instituted only in 2009. The Dutch Manual has never been translated into Japanese. Archival concepts have not been clearly articulated in our language. We are just beginning to realize the importance of this discipline.

Chinese translation and its consequences; what we can learn from Chinese case: In our neighbors’ Nation, Dutch Manual was translated into Chinese in 1959 by China Renmin University Archival Studies department. In spite of differences, Japan and China have lots of common cultural elements; Japan has learned and introduced Chinese since Ancient time. Two Nations share, even if partially, writing system and classical conceptual paradigm. In order to elaborate Japanese system of archival thinking, we have lots to learn from the Chinese case. I try to analyze and evaluate Dutch Manuals’ influences, especially in the case of Chinese translated version and evolution of Chinese archival history to reflect on the possibility of Japanese translation, future of Japanese archival practices, and a Universal archival theory.

The Affective Archivist: The Multidirectional Affective Interplay Between Archivist and Collections / Luke Bohanon (UCLA)

The introduction of postmodernist and deconstructionist theory changed the archival field as both archivists and scholars came to recognize the existence of agency behind the shaping of archival records; the myth of the archivist as an impartial custodian of records was exposed. Archivists recognized the extent to which their experiences, ideologies, convictions, and professional motivations influenced their practices. Despite the recognition of the intrinsic subjectivity of the profession as constructed through the biases of both the institution and the archivist, archival scholarship has a tendency to focus on the mechanics of theory rather than the personal and experiential motivations, both conscious and unconscious, of the archivist. Much of the field’s literature has explored the necessity for justice and activism as well as offered frameworks for their incorporation, but there has been little work that focuses on the forces that influence the archivist. Affect, one such influence, is often discussed indirectly through the topics of justice and activism, as well as through trauma and reconciliation. This paper will actively explore how affective issues influence archivists.

Using qualitative information gathered from willing, practicing archivists, as well as scholarship from cognate fields, the proposed paper will explore how archivists view affect as it relates to themselves, their profession, and their collections in order to examine how the multidirectional interplay of affect between archivist and collections influences the archival profession. Some of the questions this paper will explore include: How do archivists view records when their value is derived through affective associations with specific people or events? What role do archivists see affect having in the archival profession? Do archival records exert affective influences on archivists and, if so, what are the results of those influences? Through exploring these and other questions, the proposed paper will help archivists recognize how they and their collections mutually influence one another throughout the archival process.