Venkat Rao

Conflict of the Archives and Counter-Signing Memories: Towards a Critical Humanities


Archives articulate memories. Memories are intangible; whereas, archives gather materialized memories. Two distinct kinds of memories bind and unbind, continue and discontinue the phenomenal and non-phenomenal relations and existences in the world. One set contains externalized and objectified memories, which are the work of the hand and face. The other set figures the enacted and embodied memories that circulate across all sorts of materialities and whose relays are intractable and indeterminable. Lithic or glyphic technologies make possible the archivation of the work of the hand and a-lithic “technologies” (gesture and speech) articulate the work of the face. Civilizational differences can be tracked on the basis of modes of archival articulations. European colonialism can be examined as initiating a colossal conflict of the archives – conflict between lithic and a-lithic technologies.

This presentation is an initial attempt to grapple with culture-specific articulations of memory. Specific themes such as how memories affect conceptions of texts, what is the relation between memory and techne or technology, mourning as a yearning for a future of memory and the problem of possessing memories or owning inheritances will be addressed. For the purpose of demonstration, specific “texts” from the narrative, visual and performative, or image, music and textual traditions of India will be drawn. This presentation is part of a larger work on mnemocultures of India. The larger work is aimed at rethinking teaching and research in the humanities – counter-signing memories of critical humanities, from the context of India.