Ethics and Archives

Moore, Niamh (2008) Ethics and Archives. In: Archiving and Reusing Qualitative Data: Theory, Methods and Ethics across Disciplines, 19 September 2008, University of Essex. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Whether novel or mundane, for many the concept of the archive does seem to produce some kind of ‘mal d’archive’, an archive fever, whether following Derrida or Steedman, which merits further attention. We might understand ethics as the ‘mal d’archive’ for sociologists, as the site of sociologists’ anxieties about, resistance to, and general feverishness about the archive. Sociological resistance to archiving partly revolves around questions of the meaning of informed consent when future use of data cannot be anticipated; with the challenges of maintaining confidentiality and the possible limitations to use of data when data has been anonymised, and stripped of identifying names and places. Yet oral historians have long been grappling with ethics and informed consent with respect to interview material and transcripts. Historians who consult government records are faced with a 30 year rule, and sometimes a 100 year rule, governing access to public documents. So for historians questions of ethics are posited entirely differently. Anthropologists often face the challenge of negotiating consent over long period of fieldwork, or returns to the field over time, and even returns to their own personal archive of fieldnotes, photographs, maps, kinship diagrams and field recollections. Literary theorists frequently grapple with the challenges of bringing the privately written letters and diaries of writers and their correspondents into the public domain. Oral historians insist on history from below, on agentic subjects making history, inserting themselves into the record and on the importance of using the names of ordinary people. This seminar explores what ethical dilemmas and possible resolutions emerge out of encounters between the vulnerable, at risk subject of the social scientist, who needs to be protected by the cloaks of informed consent, anonymity and confidentiality, and the robust subject of oral history, insisting on their names and deeds being recorded for posterity, and on the project of inserting him or herself into history. This seminar will also examine the relevance of ethics at a time when mal d’archive threatens to become a full blown paralysis in an age of over-information, and when the very personal, private and intimate is to be found everywhere in blogs and various online fora.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Other)
Subjects:8. Research Management and Impact > 8.3 Research Ethics
8. Research Management and Impact > 8.9 Research Management and Impact (other)
ID Code:416
Deposited By: NCRM users
Deposited On:05 Dec 2008 18:15
Last Modified:29 Sep 2010 18:02

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