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The Invisible Hand. Colonial Collections Revisited

Vak
2015-2016

Admission requirements

Not applicable.

Description

The well-known British surveyor Colin MacKenzie (1754-1821) collected large amounts of indigenous materials during his long career in India and Java. His feverish and obsessive collecting practices not only created an important collection; at the same time he destroyed previous meanings and functions of the collected materials. Previously related documents were split up and documents that were not related at all before his act of collecting, were connected by the mere act of collecting, which gave them a new context and a new meaning for later users.
MacKenzie’s collecting practice illustrates that collecting cultural objects (artifacts, books, archives) is not a neutral activity. Collections and archives are no innocent deposits. Although archivists and collectors work from the perspective of conservation, all collections are at the same time subject to ‘ruination’ through selection and classification. An anthropological approach of the archive may shed light on the many different interacting layers in these collections.

The purpose of the research is twofold:
a. to analyze the materialization processes of some colonial collections.
b. to investigate the processes of contextualization and decontextualization of collected materials by analyzing collecting processes.

Questions that will be investigated: In what kind of information were collectors in the colonies interested? How did they gather their materials? What was the effect of the act of collecting on the previous functions of the collected materials? What were the effects of processing activities of collectors, archivists, custodians and users on the ‘shaping’ of these collections?

Course objectives

General learning objectives
The student has acquired:

    1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
    1. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
    1. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
    1. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
    1. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following:
    • in the specialisation Archival Studies: archiving in a colonial context; insight into the significance of archiving processes for the way in which a society deals with its documentation heritage in general and its historical practice in particular; disclosure, including digital disclosure, of archives as part of the broader heritage sector.
    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    • in the specialisation Archival Studies: theoretical foundations of archivistics; assessment and selection of archives.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar
The student has acquired:

    1. Thorough understanding of the impact of collecting, processing and management of archival collections on the meaning and usability of the collections for scientific research
    1. The ability to analyze a collection by using the records continuum model
    1. The ability to critically reflect on the outcomes and on the usability of the records continuum model
    1. (ResMA only:) the ability to do a comparative research between two collections by using the records continuum model and to critically reflect on the outcomes and on the usability of the records continuum model.

Timetable

See Timetable and deadlines History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar, with research classes in the institutions that keep the collected materials

Course Load

Total course load for the course (number of 10 EC x 28 hours)

  • Amount of lectures: 28 hours

  • Literature 50 hours (time to study the compulsory literature (guideline: 7 pages per hour depending on the material to be studied)

  • Preparation lecture / assignments: 28 hours

  • Assignment: 174 hours (necessary hours to write a paper, including research and reading secondary literature)

Assessment method

Assessment

  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 10-14 (ResMA: 1-9, 10-15)

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7

  • Assignment 1 (Review of the selected collection by using the records continuum model)
    Measured learning objectives: 3-5, 7, 13-15

  • Assignment for ResMa only: Comparative review of 2 collections by using the records continuum model
    Measured learning objectives: 3-5, 7, 13, 16

Weighing
Written paper:70 %
Oral presentation: 20 %
Assignment 1 Review : 10 %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficent .

Deadlines
Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline

Resit
Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Blackboard

Literature will be made available via Blackboard

  • Assignments are posted on blackboard, students receive feedback in the class and via Blackboard.

Reading list

Will be made available via Blackboard

Registration

Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

dhr. Prof.dr. K.J.P.F.M. Jeurgens

Remarks

Some lectures will be given in the archival institutions that keep the selected collections