Traces of traces: a list and the archive of the other archive

Traces of traces: a list and the archive of the other archive

Please reference as: Liz Stanley (2019) ‘Traces of traces’ and provide the paragraph number as appropriate when quoting.

1. ‘The trace’ provides the foundation for someone now being able to think and write about something or someone then and can take many forms. This intellectual transfer across the barriers of time has been referred to in earlier trace discussions as involving, and being a constitutive aspect of, the ‘now/past’. The idea of the ‘now/past’ brings together the researcher’s activity now, with the material derived from some moment in the past that they are working on. And the trace in question can be direct memory, can be letters, can be a photograph album, can be a diary, can be an inventory, can be a list, can be tallies, can be old magazines, can be accounts, can be State papers, can be monuments and memorials…

2. But what about the activities and the products of a researcher who is working in the now/past, how should these be thought about when the vast majority of them are not re-representations of letters, diary and so on, but summarising invocations that are part of the thought process of the person who is doing the thinking and writing and inhabiting the particular now/past concerned? In earlier discussion of the trace and the now/past, such things were referred to using the umbrella term of ‘the archive of the other archive’. Read on.

3. What this involves can be explained quite simply. Someone who researches any aspect of the past as an aspect of their investigation will assemble such things as notes, photocopied secondary sources, records or notes produced while working on things in an archive, photographs of original documents or other material, drafts of writings around some analytic concern or issue, etc. These are the researcher’s archive of that other archive which is the archival material that they are working on; and what they are producing as a by-product of their working practices is a collection which mirrors or renders and in this sense distorts or exaggerates small selections from the sources made into another form (notes, photographs of documents, databases and so forth), because these are a part of the interpretive process that the researcher is engaged in. An example.

4. In the beginning was the Whites Writing Whiteness project, involving Liz Stanley and three other researchers. At some point later there was work on the Forbes Family Collection in the National Archives of South Africa. At some point after this there was a shift of analytical attention in the direction of using by bending and breaking and re-assembling ideas about social change by Norbert Elias. Later Emilia Sereva joined the project and there was work on the Forbes diary, with its first incarnation dated 1850 and its last the early months of 1918. Even later, there was a decision to bring the diary and Elias together, not around social change but regarding a joint article on how theory and method come together in the working practices of researching. This also had implications for writing and publishing: for much if not all of the time we were working collaboratively on different continents, Southern Africa and Europe, Southern Africa and the USA, the USA and Europe. All of these produced things that became part of the archive of the other archive: photographs of documents, notes on sub-components in collections, database records, references on reading, drafts of think-pieces with an interpretive purpose…

5. And during the specific ‘we are working together to produce an article’ part of the process, hundreds of email and other exchanges including Skype meetings and transferring documents via Dropbox occurred over the relevant period, and there were also a number of face-to-face meetings at conferences and an extended period of working together in Edinburgh. A detailed list of these, derived from the detail on record, will be found below.

6. How to think about this list, about what it ‘is’? It is a trace of the process that has been engaged in. That is, it is a record of the many traces that constituted this process, and it is ‘a trace of the traces of traces’. It conveys the large amount of work that went into thinking about, devising, researching, analysing, writing, revising, re-writing, the article and then revising it around referee comments. But what does it mean to say that it is ‘a trace of the traces of traces’?

7. It is a meta-record. It is a record of records of something, for each of its composing dated items is a meta-level phenomena: transcriptions were made and checked, frequency runs of pronoun uses were puzzled over, reading was swapped, paragraphs trying to explain something were exchanged… But what these rested on were renditions and selections of what was in the archive and worked on back in the day, in making selections from and creating database records of the Forbes diary, and etc with the Forbes letters.

8. In this sense, the list below actually has a meta-meta character. That is, it is triplely divorced from any actual past event, circumstance etc: a meta-record such as this records exchanges that are at a number of levels of remove. It records the traces of traces (researchers’ communications and exchanges), which are at some level concerned with the actual traces that are the source materials being worked with (diary entries, letters). But these meta-level components of the archive of the other archive (selections, transcriptions, summary notations) start to take over analytically. That is, the traces of traces become things in themselves, they are the things that are worked with, these analytical workings and interpretive summaries stand in for the thing itself, with the researcher becoming increasingly distanced from the actual traces.

9. However, so-called ‘actual traces’ are also complicated. They are usually not the events and circumstances and persons which are the object of intellectual attention but proxies for this, and they come in representational forms which are at a (smaller or greater) skew to ‘what happened’. They are the Abdication document, not the circumstances in which the Kaiser signed it at the end of the Great War; they are the ‘Indian Mutiny’, not the long history which produced it; they are the multitudinous papers of Consolidated Goldfields and not work in the mines or skulduggery in the boardroom. And of course they are diaries and letters and not how different members of the Forbes family actually behaved and what their relationships with other people including workers on the Athole farm-estate were like. The usually representational character of the trace has to be grasped and worked with, not elided or denied. ‘The trace’ Is tricky.

10. The document that follows is (is it?) a list, and so it is helpful at this point to consider some of the properties that lists have in particular when located as part of the archive of the upper archive.

11. Lists can be of diverse or even clashing items. In this they are rather like inventories, which are boundaries lists, things which ‘are’ together and can be counted as such even if of diverse character. They are unlike tallies, which are counts of things seen as like each other or which for the purposes in hand belong together, and there is the implication that the number of things included is important in terms of exactitude – there is the right number of sheep, people present and so on to count. And while an inventory is not necessarily a count, the fact that it has boundaries (all the items in the house, all the goods which have been delivered) means that there is a limit to the number of components and so counting is in a sense involved. Unlike both inventories and tallies, lists are not counts nor are they predicated on there being a finite number of things to be included. A list is potentially at least infinite.

12. Taking these thoughts into consideration, the document that follow, transferred from a Word file, is and at the same time is not a list, and it is certainly not a list exactly, for it also has elements of being an inventory and a tally as well. It is on the borders of all three. There was a precise number of exchanges about the sub-project of producing an article, including all the exchanges that are relevant is important, many different activities some of which contradict others are encompassed. It counts communications and exchanges, but the specific number of items is not the point, it is intended to collect together diversites which are linked in spite of differences, it could have included more if more had been relevant, and it registers and records related activities, for they are bound together as part of a purpose which is not entirely recoverable from the list.

13. This list can be considered in and of itself, although it is its relationship to the trace and its presence as part of the archive of the other archive which gives it its full meaning. And the trace itself is not there, nor apart from in shadowy form, as through a glass darkly, are the traces of the trace which are the more usual components of an archive of the other archive.

NB. The dated entries below often included a number of interconnected exchanges. A to E after a date indicates separate topic email exchanges on the same day.

11.04.18 – Discussion at BSA Conference re possible joint article
22.04.18 – Skype re possible Brussels Elias conference paper
02.05.18A – Email re Brussels conference, possible focus on 1868-71 Forbes letters and/or diaries, and Elias’s ideas; relevance of Collected Works Essays I – III
02.05.18B – Email re narrowing focus diary/date
04.05.18 – Dropbox – Transcriptions draft: 1871 letters David Forbes snr
05.05.18 – Email re editing transcriptions Forbes 1871 letters
07.05.18 – Provisional draft transcriptions for 1871 diary entries
08.05.18A – Email re agenda for Skype meeting
08.05.18B – Dropbox – Transcription draft: 1871 letters to/from David Forbes snr, other 1871 letters; PDFs
08.05.18C – Transcription draft: Forbes 1871 diary
08.05.18D – Draft Brussels abstract
08.05.18E – Skype re Forbes 1871, Brussels conference, checking and revising Forbes 1871 letter transcriptions, discussion re compiling a dossier for all letters w/database info; catch up on reading
08.05.18F – Email re analytical thoughts on 1871 diary
09.05.18A – Email re Brussels abstract: main areas of content, possible titles
09.05.18B – Working draft Brussels abstract
10.05.18 – Email re edits Brussels abstract
11.05.18A – Email re Brussels abstract, Collected Works notes, Forbes 1871 letters transcriptions, letters dossier, PDFs articles, catch up on reading
11.05.18B – Transcription draft: letters to/from David Forbes snr
11.05.18C – Transcription draft: re ‘missing’ 1871 letters
11.05.18D – Working draft Brussels abstract
11.05.18E – Final draft Brussels abstract
12.05.18A – Notes file re Civilising Process, What is Sociology? book
12.05.18B – Email re We-I balance essay
12.05.18C – Transcription draft: letters to/from David Forbes snr
30.05.18 – Email re agenda for Skype
31.05.18 – Skype re Elias ideas re Forbes diaries and letters, PDFs articles
04.06.18A – Email re checking Forbes 1871 diary
04.06.18B – Skype re Forbes 1871 diary and checks
12.06.18 – Email re paper accepted for Brussels conference, further ideas, catch up on reading
16.07.18A – Email re Forbes 1871 diary corrections
16.07.18B – Transcription draft: Forbes 1871 diary
18.07.18A – Transcription draft: 1871 letters to/from David Forbes snr
18.07.18B – Email re ‘missing’ letter transcription
18.07.18C – Transcription draft: ‘missing’ 1871 letters
18.07.18D – Revised transcription draft of 1871 letters including ‘missing’ transcriptions
19.07.18 – Skype re Forbes 1871 letters; checklist for transcription; PDFs articles; catch up on reading
20.07.18A – Email re transcribed another ‘missing’ letter
20.07.18B – Dropbox, abstract, dossiers, PDFs, files
20.07.18C – Transcription draft: 1871 letters
20.07.18D – Dropbox – Working draft: 1871 letters dossier; PDFs, catch up on reading
21.07.18A – Email re ‘theorizing’ and reading catch up
21.07.18B – Working draft: 1871 letters
22.07.18-23.07.18 – Email re checklist for transcriptions of 1871 letters; information to be added to letters dossier, PDFs, catch up on reading
23.07.18 – Working draft: 1871 letters checklist and notes
24.07.18 – Working draft: 1871 letters dossier
26.07.18-28.07.18 – Email re Forbes 1871 diary and letter notes exchange; related ideas re We-I
27.07.18A – Working draft: 1871 diary notes
27.07.18B – Working draft: 1871 letters checklist and notes
28.07.18 – Working drafts: 1871 diary, 1871 letters, pronouns & Elias
30.07.18 – Skype re Forbes 1871 ideas and notes; catch up on reading; discussion re tracking frequencies of pronoun use across letters and diary
31.07.18 – Email re letters from Lizzie Forbes, most recent transcriptions draft of letters
04.08.18 – Email re themes in 1871 letters and diary, not imposing Elias, possible Skype meeting
07.08.18 – Working draft: 1871 letters notes with frequency charts re pronouns
08.08.18 – Email re arranging Skype; frequency charts for personal letters and diary; lists of pronoun frequencies
09.08.18A – Email re updated frequency charts; forgot to account for ‘she/he’
09.08.18B – Working draft: 1871 letters notes
10.08.18A – Email re need to disaggregate ‘we’ (‘we’ the company vs ‘we’ writer + close family); document draft re what the she/her and he/his pronouns refer to in context, ‘pronounial units’; catch up on reading
10.08.18B – Skype re pronouns + need to use more specificity in recording what pronouns refer to and how to do this; catch up on reading
11.08.18A – Email re different meanings of each category of pronoun; sharing of lists and document re pronoun definitions and use
11.08.18B – Working draft: list of frequencies of she/her/he/him in 1871 letters
11.08.18C – Revised working draft: list of frequencies of she/her/he/him in 1871 letters
11.08.18D – Skype re Elias, conference paper draft, related procedures, catch up on reading
11.08.18E – Working draft: pronoun definitions list, disaggregating each
16.08.18 – Email re arranging Skype
20.08.18A – Skype re updated pronoun definitions list; catch up on reading
20.08.18B – Working draft: pronoun definitions list
20.08.18C – Working draft: main points re Brussels paper
22.08.18 – Email re pronouns and letters/diary
25.08.18 – Working draft: conference talk transcript
26.08.18 – Email re agenda for Skype
27.08.18A – Skype re pronouns, frequency charts for diary, draft presentation, queries about letters, catch up on reading
27.08.18B – Working draft: pronoun definitions list
27.08.18C – Email re homo clausus and aperti, updated pronouns definitions, reworked frequency charts for 1871 diary, catch up on reading
27.08.18D – Working draft: 1871 diary frequency chart
28.08.18 – Working draft: 1871 letters frequency charts
28.08.18-30.08.18 – Email re 1871 letters frequency charts
30.08.18 – Skype re 1871 letters frequency charts
31.08.18A – Working draft: Brussels paper
31.08.18B – Working draft: pronoun definitions list
31.08.18C – Working draft: Frequencies lists for all pronouns for letters
31.08.18D – Email re relationality re analysis of letters and diary frequency charts and reworking; weightings; thoughts re letters between David and Kate Forbes; discussion of conference paper draft; revised pronouns definitions list
31.08.18-01.09.18 – Email re weightings in frequency charts
01.09.18 – Working draft: pronoun definitions list
13.09.18 – Skype and email re key points for conference talk, discussion re names, catch up on reading
18.09.18-20.09.18 – Email re David Forbes figuration fig for 1871 diary
19.09.18 – Email re Brussels conference paper, arranging Skype
21.09.18 – Skype re conference paper, discussion re adding names
22.09.18A – Working draft: Brussels conference
22.09.18B – Working draft: Powerpoint presentation
22.09.18.-24.09.18 – Email re conference draft, Powerpoint presentation and figuration figs
24.09.18 – Working draft: David and Kate Forbes figuration figs
28.09.18 – Skype re version abstract/paper Brussels conference, catch up on reading
29.09.18A – Working draft: Brussels conference
29.09.18B – Email re abstract
29.09.18C – Working draft: Powerpoint presentation
29.09.18D – Working draft: frequency charts and figs
04.10.18 – Email re arranging Skype
05.10.18 – Email re conference
11.10.18A – Working draft: Brussels conference presentation
11.10.18B – Skype re conference presentation, catch up on reading
18.10.18 – Email re conference presentation
01.11.18A – Working draft: conference presentation
01.11.18B – Working draft: Powerpoint
01.11.18C – Skype re conference paper and Powerpoint presentation, new reading
12.11.18A – Email re drafting version of conference presentation for publication
12.11.18B – Working draft: article
17.11.18 – Email re checking the Powerpoint presentation
29.11.18 – Skype re ‘shape’ of figurations; conference presentation; new reading
30.11.18 – Working draft: article
02.12.18A – Email re drafting paper
02.12.18B – Working draft: article
05.12.18-08.12.18 – Discussions at Elias conference Brussels re figurations, article, plans new reading
17.12.18 – Email re final lists of pronounial counts for 1871 letters and diary, queries
18.12.18-19.12.18 – Email re use of personal names in pronoun frequencies.
18.12.18A – Working draft: 1871 letters checklist
18.12.18B – Working draft: Frequencies lists for pronouns re 1871 letters
19.12.18A – Working draft: Frequencies lists for pronouns re 1871 letter w/ personal names added
19.12.18B – Email re paper draft; new reading
19.12.18 C– Working draft: article for publication
22.12.18 – Skype re letters and diary frequency re face or distance, implications re figuration; catch up on reading
23.12.18 – Working draft: article for publication
24.12.18A – Email re weightings for letters and diary frequency charts, face and distance implications
24.12.18B – Skype re article draft
25.12.18 – Dropbox – Working draft: frequency charts; PDFs
26.12.18A – Email re average length, shortest, longest, letters
26.12.18B – Email re David Forbes figuration figure
27.12.18 – Working draft: article for publication
30.12.18A – Working draft: article abstract
30.12.18B – Email re deciding on appropriate journal
02.01.19 – Skype re article draft; catch up on reading
03.01.19A – Email re Kate Forbes figuration figure
03.01.19B – Email re case for longer article re the charts
04.01.19 – Working draft: article for publication
05.01.18 – Working draft: Kate Forbes figuration figure
05.01.19-06.01.19 – Email re latest draft article; reworking Kate Forbes figuration figure
06.01.19 – Working draft: article
07.01.19A – Email re checklist of things to do re article submission
07.01.19B – Skype re charts and latest article draft; catch up on reading
08.01.19A – Email re all Forbes charts
08.01.19B – Working draft: article
08.01.19C – Email re checking references
10.01.19 – Working draft: article
17.01.19 – Email re article submission
01.03.19 – Skype re attending Elias workshop, Leicester, July; catch up on reading
12.04.19 – Skype re Leicester workshop
13.04.19-16.04.19 – Email re handouts for Leicester workshop
13.04.19-16.04.19 – Working draft: postcards
15.04.19-16.04.19 – Working draft: postcards
29.04.19-02.05.19 –Working draft: other handouts
17.06.19-20.06.19 – Email re article decision: subject to revisions to be made
29.06.19-03.07.19 – Elias workshop, Leicester
04.07.19-21.07.19 – Full word-by-word cross-checks all Forbes diaries, Edinburgh; swopping articles and books
26.08.19 – Email re article revisions
28.08.19 – Email re article revisions, reframing the structure
01.09.19 – Email re article revisions; swopping PDFs articles
03.09.19A – Email re revising introduction of article; swopping PDFs articles
03.09.19B – Working draft: revised introduction for article
05.09.19 – Skype re article revisions; catch up on reading
07.09.19 – Email re ‘building out the theory’ and relationship to method
08.09.19 – Working draft: introduction for article
09.09.19 – Email re revised start of article
09.09.19-10.09.19 – Email re references; catch up on reading
09.09.19-10.09.19 – Working draft: references; compiling this listing
20.09.19-23.09.19 – Email re revised working practices section
22.09.19 – Email re compiling this listing
23.09.19A – Email re references
23.09.19B – Working draft: revising article
25.09.19 – Working draft: revising article


Last updated: 7 October 2019


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