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Along the Archival Grain:
Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense
Ann Laura Stoler

Paperback | 2010 | $30.95 | £25.95 | ISBN: 9780691146362
336 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 8 halftones. 1 maps.
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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.


"[E]legance, energy, and perspicuity has long been a hallmark of Stoler's scholarship, but in this book, Stoler's aim is particularly true. . . . Along the Archival Grain is a call to arms from one of the most forceful practitioners of our discipline. The passions that haunt are of more than passing interest: they have done much to shape our contemporary world. In facing up to this reality, Ann Stoler has provided us with a new way of conceptualizing what students of the colonial can and should do."--Danilyn Rutherford, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

"Along the Archival Grain . . . sheds new light on the nature of the colonial state. . . . Stoler takes the lessons of colonial discourse analysis first opened by Edward Said to new heights. . . . Along the Archival Grain is also an indispensable and innovative ethnography of the colonial state that dismantles the state's epistemic power and self-representation."--Julian Go, Pacific Affairs

"This book has raised the benchmark for archival investigation and established a powerful model for new cultural geographies of colonialism that deserves to be read and debated by those beyond the fields of colonial studies and historical research methodology and theory."--Stephen Legg, Environment and Planning

"The author presents a nuanced and meticulous reading of official nineteenth- and twentieth-century Dutch colonial archives and decenters how postcolonial scholars, feminist scholars, and historians have characteristically approached colonial texts."--Meredith Reifschneider, Current Anthropology

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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Appreciations xi
Chapter One: Prologue in Two Parts 1
Chapter Two: The Pulse of the Archive 17
Part I: Colonial Archives and Their Affective States 55
Chapter Three: Habits of a Colonial Heart 57
Chapter Four: Developing Historical Negatives 105
Chapter Five: Commissions and Their Storied Edges 141
Part II: Watermarks in Colonial History 179
Chapter Six: Hierarchies of Credibility 181
Chapter Seven: Imperial Dispositions of Disregard 237
Appendix 1: Colonial Chronologies 279
Appendix 2: Governors-General in the Netherlands Indies, 1830-1930 285
Bibliography 287
Index 309

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