Archives de l’intime : a theoretical and methodological approach

This roundtable discussion is inspired by the pioneering work of Ann Laura Stoler, known for her studies of intimate life and of the construction, interpretation, and use of archives. Along with Stoler, who will give the keynote talk, we will bring together a group of scholars who have each worked on what we have termed the Archives de l’intime, that is, on sources that illuminate the mechanisms of regulation and control of intimate life, both in France and in its colonies. Our discussion will begin with a consideration of the concept of “the intimate” and how its use might enable us to rethink the categories “national” and “colonial,” “France” and “Outre-Mer,” and the relationships between them. Our next task will be to discuss how scholars should work with the “Archives de l’intime.” The different possibilities include: the effort to bring together sources originally meant to be distinct; to place different sources in tension with one another; and/or to unravel them from within by examining their gaps, silences, paradoxes, and what they may have left unthought. In all of these efforts, it is crucial to consider these archives in relation to agents of power and as strategic and privileged sites for the production of normative discourses and official knowledge. In doing so, we will reflect on Stoler’s idea that scholars should question the very nature of these archives, seeing them differently from the way we usually do historical sources. Les Archives de l’intime, according to Storler, are virtual and protean in ways that might make possible a new kind of history. Our six participants, Emily Apter, Edward Berenson, Claudie Bernard, Todd Shepard, Judith Surkis and Christelle Taraud, will each take ten minutes or so to consider what they take to be the most promising methodological and theoretical possibilities that emerge from the Archives de l’intime.

Event Image