Archives and Justice: A South African Perspective is collection of Verne Harris's best writing during the first decade of South Africa's post-apartheid democracy. Harris is the project director of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg. While South Africa is his immediate context, Harris always engages wider geographical and conceptual worlds.
The volume is organized into five sections. "Discourses" illuminates Harris's engagement with writings and discussions related to archives. "Narratives," the second section, "explores the stories that archivists tell in certain domains of professional work-appraisal, electronic recordmaking, and arrangement and description." The third and fourth sections, "Politics and Ethics" and "Pasts and Secrets," recount and reflect on events and issues with which Harris has wrestled as a South African archivist. The op-eds contained in the final section, "Actualities," provide evidence of Harris's "deliberate endeavors to bring awareness of archive to popular debates in South Africa."
Drawing on the energies of Derridean deconstruction, Harris suggests an ethics, and a politics, expressed in the maxim "memory for justice." And he portrays the work of archives as a work of critical importance to the building of democracy.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:
"Verne gives us the poetry and music of a new archive, and so many rich arguments for freeing ourselves from constraining shibboleths so that archives may be transformed for justice. In the new archive, ever opening, never fixed or closed, respecting story, inviting multiple stories, people in society will in turn be free from the meta-narratives of power."
—TERRY COOK, in the foreword to Archives and Justice: A South African Perspective
"Harris has a formidable intellect and writes extremely well. His style is engaging . . . He shares with Derrida the ability to deconstruct his own language as he goes along. A wealth of unexpected semantic interplay is revealed as he does this and a great deal of wit."
—MALCOLM TODD, Parlimentary Archives, Business Archives: Principles and Practice (May 2008)
"In Archives and Justice, Harris invites the reader to enter into an ever-evolving and unfolding dialogue about the nature of the archive, records, and memory; their significance in the lives of individuals, communities, and societies; and the roles and responsibilities of archivists...Above all else, Harris urges us to question, to contest, to trouble, to undefine and redefine, our professional and societal assumptions, stories, and narratives."
—JENNIFER A. MARSHALL, School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina, American Archivist 71:2 (Fall/Winter 2008)
"Harris's writings are written with candor and are full of illuminating anecdotes . . . Harris ably connects the local with the international, demonstrating how lessons learned by archives in South Africa are relevant to the global archival community."
—HEATHER DEAN, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New England Archivists Newsletter, April 2010
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