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Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense epub

by Ann Laura Stoler


Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense epub

ISBN: 0691015775

ISBN13: 978-0691015774

Author: Ann Laura Stoler

Category: Other

Subcategory: Humanities

Language: English

Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 3, 2008)

Pages: 336 pages

ePUB book: 1588 kb

FB2 book: 1930 kb

Rating: 4.6

Votes: 948

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and colonial common sense. Along the archival grain was published this year by Princeton University Press.

and colonial common sense. Gouda, Remco Raben and Henk Schulte Nordholt.

Along the Archival Grain book. 25). Perhaps she finds such epistemic anxieties and colonial common sense expressed in colonial agent Valck's experiences from within the empire. On one hand, Valck was adamant that violence from the local population towards European planters was in retribution for horrible working conditions and even worse treatment. On the other hand, Valck refused to say in his reports there was some kind of organized affair against colonial politics or a result of the Aceh War brewing north.

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Along the Archival Grain offers a unique methodological and analytic opening to the affective registers of imperial governance and the political content of archival forms. In a series of nuanced mediations on the nature of colonial documents from the nineteenth-century Netherlands Indies, Ann Laura Stoler identifies the social epistemologies that guided perception and practice, revealing the problematic racial ontologies of that confused epistemic space

Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and . A stunningly attractive book that reads like a great novel.

Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense. Ann Laura Stoler provides a model of the new historiography rich in the historical, anthropological, and psychoanalytical insights demanded by the newly theorized subjects of history. Reading with the grain of the archive provides a way of realizing Walter Benjamin's injunction to read against the grain of history. ―Hayden White, Stanford University. Ann Stoler has read the reports of colonial administrators in the Dutch East Indies with a new eye.

Stoler, Ann Laura, Along the archival grain: epistemic anxieties and colonial common sense. History of the book, reading practices and intertextuality. Popular and mass literature. Literary criticism in the twentieth century: structuralism and its refusal to examine historical context. 3. Statistics and opinion polls Statistics: Statistics and statecraft in early modern and modern Europe.

In this new feature we highlight a recently launched book. In this issue we focus on Ann Stoler’s Along the archival grain; Epistemic anxieties and colonial common sense. Registered readers may participate in the debate. If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

Ann Laura Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies . Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton Universitry Press, 2009).

Stoler is the director of the Institute for Critical Social Inquiry.

Recommend this journal.

Along the Archival Grain offers a unique methodological and analytic opening to the affective registers of imperial governance and the political content of archival forms. In a series of nuanced mediations on the nature of colonial documents from the nineteenth-century Netherlands Indies, Ann Laura Stoler identifies the social epistemologies that guided perception and practice, revealing the problematic racial ontologies of that confused epistemic space.

Navigating familiar and extraordinary paths through the lettered lives of those who ruled, she seizes on moments when common sense failed and prevailing categories no longer seemed to work. She asks not what colonial agents knew, but what happened when what they thought they knew they found they did not. Rejecting the notion that archival labor be approached as an extractive enterprise, Stoler sets her sights on archival production as a consequential act of governance, as a field of force with violent effect, and not least as a vivid space to do ethnography.

Students of colonialism often try to read "against the grain" of colonial conventions. Through analytic tactics of inversion and recuperation, they seek to give voice and agency to the voiceless and the powerless, and to recast colonial subjects as agents who made choices and critiques of their own. Conversely, they treat empire builders and colonial administration agents as the mere carriers of structures, as pawns in a power game whose archival traces and narratives must be read as ideological constructs of domination, exploitation, and racial abuse.

As Ann Laura Stoler states in her introduction, one fundamental premise of this book is a commitment to a less assured and perhaps more humble stance: "to explore the grain with care and read along it first." As she explains, reading along the archival grain "draws our sensibilities to the archive's granular rather than seamless texture, to the rough surface that mettles its hue and shapes its form". Taking the pulse of the archive diagnoses the ethnographer with a bad case of archive fever: hard questions are forced to the forefront, "contexts" are destabilized, the outlines of "events" appear less clearly bound, commonsense assumptions are on the line.

The official documents of Dutch colonial archives are so weighted with fixed formats, empty phrases, and racial clichés that one is easily blinded by their flattened prose and numbing dullness. But archives are not simply accounts of action or records of what people thought happened. Against the sober formulaics of officialese, they register the febrile movements of persons off balance, of thoughts and feelings in and out of place. Archives are "sites of perturbation"; they are records of uncertainty and doubt, narratives of what might have been or what might still yet be.

The epistemic anxieties registered by the archives are manyfold. Revolt and betrayal by the native population was always on the imminent and dangerous horizon. In the last chapters, Stoler tells the tale of a colonial agent confronted with a series of murders of European planters that he was convinced were the consequence of their own brutal labor policies and coercive tactics. Dismissed from the administration for having blown the whistle, he was to spend the last thirteen years of his life in drafting and redrafting the letter accounting for his actions in order to redeem his honor.

But whereas the natives stand as an ominous presence in the indistinct background, the group that caught the most attention from the colonial administration were "Europeans" of all sorts: vagrants, light-skinned beggars in native dress, dismissed soldiers living in native neighborhoods, indignant Indo youths rejected from civil service jobs that advertised for "pure Europeans," and a growing civilian class that was either unemployed or reduced to meager incomes and pensions.

Colonial agents responded to official anxiety and fears with infeasible policies for implausible arrangements that could neither be carried out nor sustained. For instance, Stoler traces the long paper trail left by the creation and maintenance of an artisan and craft-based training school in the port city of Soerabaja. The school was one of the many projects intended to educate and control the Inlandsche kinderen, a mixed underclass formed by the offsprings of European men and native women, or paupered whites of European birth.

By most historical standards, Soerabaja's craft school merits no mention. It failed on any measure of success, and only operated intermittently. But "what happened" to it is less to be found in the events surrounding its openings and closings than in the distorted imaginaries of its visionaries as to the space and subjects they sought to mold. As Stoler shows, Inlandsche kinderen embodied and exposed hypocrisies that stretched beyond the native population--that only Europeans had rights, that rights and race were not always aligned, and that awareness of those inconsistencies were evident to, and expressed among, empire's practitioners themselves.

For decades of Dutch imperial rule, a central, if unresolved question remained: which sorts of domestic and pedagogic environments could instill loyalty to Dutch rule, and which sorts would nurture affective attachments dangerous to it? Deliberations over the quality of upbringing, of whether abandoned mixed-blood children could be placed in the care of the mother or care of the state put the responsibility for the formative production of sentiment at the heart of political agendas. Parental practices, nursery rules, and sleeping arrangements were understood to be sites where self-regulating habits were formed, where dispositions to race and empire were made second-nature.

This begs a more general lesson. Students of the colonial consistently have argued that the authority to designate what would count as reason and reasonable was colonialism's mot insidious and effective technology of rule. Colonies were "laboratories of modernity", experimental terrains for efficient scientific management and rational social policy. But as Stoler notes, how sentiments have figured in and mattered to the shaping of statecraft has remained largely marginal to studies of colonial politics. What has been barely addressed are those habits of the heart and the redirection of sentiments fostered by colonial regimes themselves.

By putting affective knowledge at the core of political rationality, Stoler shows that sentiments are not antithetic to statehood and opposed to political reason, but are at once modalities and traces of it. The colonial state was not only in the business of "manufacturing consent," as Antonio Gramsci defined it, but also sought to nurture appropriate and reasoned affects through engineered morality and managed sentiments. This messy space between reason and emotions, the sort of elusive knowledge on which political assessments were dependent and often had to be made, is well reflected in the archives. As Stoler writes, in Foucaldian terms, "sentiment is the negative print of the colonial archive's reasoned surface, the ground against which the figure of reason is measured and drawn." Affective ties were "not the soft undertissue of empire, but its marrow."

Ann Laura Stoler concludes by a programmatic statement of what it might take to write a history or a genealogy of empire in "a minor key", through a register that conveys the confused sensibilities that run along the archival grain: "It might expose jagged analytic ridges, unsmooth at its bared edges. It might stay close to the out-of-sync, those minor events, the surplus that archives produce in spite of their voiced intent. It might linger over marginalia that neither fits nor coheres. It might dispense with heroes--subaltern or otherwise." This is a sophisticate and ambitious research program, but Stoler's book illustrates it beautifully.
When I picked up this book, I knew nothing about the history of colonial Dutch Indonesia, and after reading 120 pages or so, I knew nothing more. This is not rhetoric. When I say nothing, I mean literally nothing.

Of course, I know that this book is not intended as an introductory lesson for beginners. But I'm well-versed in the colonial history of other countries during the same period, and was not expecting spoon-feeding here; I would have been happy to follow her argument to its conclusion, regardless of any vagueness I may have had regarding the facts she could have mentioned. Well, as there were no facts, my lack of prior knowledge didn't matter a whit. This book could have been about France, a country I have studied extensively and in which I have lived for 13 years (and most of which is essentially a colony of Paris, so I think we could still rate that a colonial history), and it would have made no difference. There's nothing here, just references to other similar fact-free secondary and theoretical works, and snippets of archival passages shorn of all context.

I was on a Singapore-bound 747 when I read this book, with nothing else to do. But somewhere over Central Asia, I put the book down, and stared at the seat in front of me for the rest of the flight. This activity was no less informative, and far more relaxing, than reading this book. I do recommend buying it though, to those people who wish to have concrete evidence of the utter futility of much recent academic historical work.
An interesting read