More on ‘the trace’

More on ‘the trace’

As part of the website we’re writing for The Archive Project, there are some shared pages including on ‘The Archive’ and ‘The Trace’, with accompanying photographs. Thank goodness we’re no longer all four of us writing about just one image per page, the first suggestion, but ones we’ve each chosen. But I still feel uncomfortable about this, though as I’m in a minority of one I go with the majority. My reasons? Unlike most in the ‘archival turn’, I find it hard, indeed resist, generalising about ‘the archive’. They’re all very different and all that ‘power of the archive’ stuff doesn’t recognise the profound differences and complexities and is just lazy thinking. My objections to ‘the trace’ are more root and branch and are ontological, epistemological and ethical in character. Yup, I don’t like it. That is, I don’t like the turn of phrase, not that I dislike or disapprove of the survival of the flotsam and jetsam of the past beyond living memory.

As regular readers of the WWW ‘Weekly Blog’ will know, the blog of 24 July 2015 on ‘The trace‘ (and see the working paper, ‘What do we do, about the past?’ accessible via the Publications page on the WWW homepage) suggests, more exactly insists, that talking or writing about ‘the’ trace profoundly mistakes its character, constitution or ontology. What survives of the past is stuff, is bits of this and that, all having their own profound particularities. There are traces, certainly, but ‘the’ trace? Come off it! That ‘the’ is just plain daft. The problem is that for anything I might choose to pick, the particularities would be foremost; but the presumption of a page confidently called ‘the trace’ seems to be that generalities are called for.

So what to do, what photograph of this or that to pick, what generalities might be formulated? Or perhaps to balk, like a nervous horse? At the moment I really don’t know.

Last updated: 29 October 2015


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