The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa / Verne Harris

A foundational article in the field of archival science and critical archives theory, Harris, writing in 2002, argues that far from being a simple reflection of reality, archives are constructed windows into personal and collective processes. They at once express and are instruments of prevailing relations of power. Verne Harris makes these arguments through an account of archives and archivists in the context of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. The account is deliberately shaped around three themes — race, power, and public records. While he concedes that the constructedness of memory and the dimension of power are most obvious in the extreme circumstances of oppression and rapid transition to democracy, he argues that these are realities informing archives in all circumstances. He makes an appeal to archivists to enchant their work by engaging these realities and by turning always towards the call of and for justice.

Harris, Verne. 2002. “The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa.” Archival Science 2 (1–2): 63–86.