Comma

From explorers to evangelists: archivists, recordkeeping, and remembering in the Pacific Islands

Comma (2011), 2011, (1), 29–44.

Abstract

With a central focus on the cultural contexts of Pacific island societies, this essay examines the entanglement of colonial power relations in local recordkeeping practices. These cultural contexts include the ongoing exchange between oral and literate cultures, the aftermath of colonial disempowerment and reassertion of indigenous rights and identities, the difficulty of maintaining full archival systems in isolated, resource-poor "micro-states" and the driving influence of development theory. The essay opens with a discussion of concepts of exploration and evangelism in cross-cultural analysis as metaphors for archival endeavour. It then explores the cultural exchanges between oral memory and written records, orality, and literacy, as means of keeping evidence and remembering. After discussing the relation of records to processes of political and economic disempowerment, and the reclaiming of rights and identities, Wareham returns to the patterns of archival development in the Pacific region to consider how archives can integrate into their cultural and political contexts, with the aim of becoming valued parts of their communities.

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Author details

Wareham, Evelyn