The Disappearing Child: Observations on Oral History, Archives and Affects

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Abstract

This article reflects on the relations between archives, power and oral history by explicitly calling on a dynamic, relational idea of power as capacity: power to do, to affect and be affected by. It draws on ideas from affect theory, particularly the concept of the assemblage, to explore the circulation of affects across the practices, processes and products of oral history-based research. It situates interviewees, interviewers, the memory story, public historical discourses and narratives, interview situations and locations, archival documents, archives as institutions, and research outcomes - among other things - as component parts of an oral history assemblage, each with the power to affect and be affected by each other: the archive is just one element among many. Two case studies illustrate these processes, both based on interviews with women who were children in France during the Second World War. Archives are shown to have the power to make children disappear, as people and as children, but are also part of what enables them to reappear inside more complex assemblages, which include oral history and oral historians.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOral History
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Mar 2021

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