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Archives of Power/The Power of Archives

Archives are the historian’s natural habitat. Here we read and discover, turn information into evidence, and produce histories from sometimes but a scrap of paper – or at least so we thought.

In the last three decades, historians have become increasingly aware of the politics at play in the archive: archives are sites of power, places where we dispose as much as we collect, forget as much as we remember. It’s where history appears in its most tangible -sometimes overwhelming- form. Yet it is also the place where people and stories are suppressed, where some histories are privileged, and others marginalized. Archives thus shape and control what we remember collectively. Even the very notion of what constitutes an archive has expanded, with historians now asking how landscapes can be read as depositories of historical knowledge. Archives, then, are no longer self-evident; and neither is the work historians do in the archive.

Building on recent developments in cultural and postcolonial history, this network brings together historians at all career stages, including (research)master students and PhDs, to reflect on the nature of archives and the work we do there. The network aims to:

  • offer a platform where historians can reflect on their relationship with archives/archival research;
  • strengthen the conceptual and theoretical frameworks that historians use to tackle order, disorder, gaps, silences, violence, and overload in their archival research;
  • foster dialogue between historians, archivists, and others working on archival studies, both in and outside of academia;
  • discuss methods to tease out and include those voices and stories that have been marginalized in archives and in our historical narratives;
  • encourage intellectual exchange about the possibilities, challenges, and epistemological consequences of new digital approaches to archives;
  • reflect on the political and societal consequences of our production of archive-based histories.

Anyone with an interest in archives as sites of knowledge production and in how we write our histories is welcome to join and participate in our activities. Every year, the network organizes at least two activities, in the form of masterclasses, (writing) workshops, and summer schools, lectures, and visits to archives, museums, and other sites where historians produce the past. (R)MA students and PhD candidates are explicitly encouraged to suggest and organize at least one of these annual activities.

Dr Richard Calis (UU)
Dr Maartje van Gelder (UvA; contact person)
Rosa de Jong MA (UvA/KITLV/NIOD)
Dr Fenneke Sysling (UL)


Previous activities