Mapping Memory: from Papyrus to Digitization:

The Great Flood and the Arkh

Maureen Flynn-Burhoe

Carleton University

Abstract: This paper and webpage examines intersections between Jacques Derrida's Archives Fever and texts, objects and events that informed Archive Fever: Plato's Phaedrus, Freud's Moses and Monotheism and Yerushalmi Freud's Moses. (How) Is the authority of the archonte transformed by the digitization of archives? How can conceptual tools developed by Jacques Derrida enhance understanding of the concept of archives in this period of transformation? (How) can the structure of the archives allow for the co-existence of social cohesion and pluralism? To what extent is archival meaning co-determined by the structure of the archives? (Derrida 1996a: 16) To what extent is our access to knowledge, to collective memories barred by inadequate maps and ideological obstacles?

Keywords: archives, anarchives, digitization, cartography, pharmakon, plurality, democracy

With the digitization of data, archives have been inundated with a tidal wave of information. The great flood of the archives is both cause and effect of an expanding collective electronic memory and an enlarging field of inquirers and inquiries. Cultural groups resisting the homogenous mass culture of globalization, an increasingly informed citizenry insisting on accountability in governance and grass roots movements involved in risk management excavate the archives to legitimize claims and trace memories. (Wallot 1996: 23)

In this complex infosphere of '...shifting nationhood, evolving governance, mutating organizations, and changing forms of records' archivists attempt to maintain a creative tension and complementarity between their hybrid roles as gatekeepers of evidence and map-makers of society's '...long-term memory, identity and values formation and transmission.' (Wallot 1996: 23) This involves nothing less than a re-examination of the theoretical roots and conceptual framework of the professional roles of archivists. (Wallot 1996: 24)

In 1994 an international conference in London, organized by the Freud Museum and the Société Internationale d'Histoire de la Psychanalyse, focussed on 'Memory: The Question of Archives.' Derrida's presentation Archives Fever which lasted over three hours was dedicated to Jewish historian, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi whose 'handsome' book Freud's Moses provided a catalyst for his own. Yerushalmi's frustrated attempts at accessing certain exclusive archives while conducting his research on Freud, led to his paper ''Series Z: : An Archival Fantasy' presented at the same conference.

Derrida juxtaposes reflections on memory and archives with Freud's psychoanalysis. Freud's archives in Freud's Museum, London and in the Library of Congress consist of thousand of items collected and stored under protective guardianship. Yet the archons of the corpus of the most-quoted man of the twentieth century seem to break all the rules of archival practice: the archived items are neither innocent, accessible nor dusty. Freud's archives were not naive: they were self-conscious, wary of censorship therefore self-censored and incomplete. Freud's own secrecy rivalled that of Goethe who was a '... great self-revealer, but also in the abundance of autobiographical records, a careful concealer.' (Freud 1930: 212) But then all archives are incomplete repositories, containing only those objects and artifacts that have survived the past.(Yerushalmi 1994)

Even with the best archival practice the archival documents cannot be historical facts. Vital archival objects are articulated or constructed as historical in an interpretive process through the mind and imagination of the historian. History is constructed from documents retrieved from archival storage. And archival material can be constructed to contradict memory. (Yerushalmi 1994)

'Psychoanalysis aspires to be a general science of the archive, of everything that can happen to the economy of meaning and to [...] its traces.' The science (or art) of psychoanalysis depends on memory as data. Freud's human subject achieved freedom from neurosis through memory management. In the economy of psychoanalysis memories can be called up, evoked, transmitted, named, categorized and relativized.

What is the nature of transmission of memories? Freud suggested ways of remembering that were relevant to psychoanalysis and inaccessible to ordinary histories. But he only once used the term 'archives' as a metaphor for memory. In 1898 he imagined memory as an open, accessible archive that was subjected to the will. He discarded the inadequate metaphor: memories can be stored but not all can be retrieved. (Yerushalmi 1991 Freud [1898]) Yerushalmi concluded that Freud abandoned the term 'archives' as a metaphor for memory since they have '...nothing in common. Memory is not an archive, nor is archive a memory bank.' (Yerushalmi 1994)

Archives, even Freud's official Archives were not 'the ultimate arbitrar of historical truth' about Freud as it was widely believed by both his defenders and his attackers. (Yerushalmi 1994) In spite of the sophistication of contemporary historians who recognize the limitations of archival documents, the unlocking of Freud's most secretive archives, Series Z, led to a 'fureur de l'inédit.' This fury to publish previously unpublished archival documents was reminiscent of the 19th century heyday of scientific history informed by the cult of the archives. In the 1830s through the 1860s national governments opened their archives to research in an effort to protect their collective histories. Lord Acton proclaimed, 'To keep one's archives barred against the historians was tantamount to leaving one's history to one's enemies.' (Yerushalmi 1994)

Like an archaeologist, Derrida excavates the concepts of archives and memory. These pharmakon-like concepts contain both the cure and the poison. This homeopathy of thinking describes 'archive' as open, visible, accessible and undivided. Archives become an indicator, evidence, witness, a way of rewriting history, a return to origins, a return to the archaic, a search for lost time, scar-like traces on the surfaces of the body and an archeology of the surface. But archives are also dormant, lost, dissimulated, forbidden, censored, destroyed and incinerated. Through the secret archives or anarchives Derrida raises questions of transmission in the economy of memory. (1996a)

Derrida's impressions of l'actualité have left their mark around the globe. Situating himself as one who lives between two worlds, a world citizen who is Jewish-French but also Algerian he argues for a philosophy from a cosmopolitico view point where transmission and alterité become the centre. In international conferences spanning three decades with diverse groups: arabo-islamic intellectuals, UNESCO, the Société Internationale d'Histoire de la Psychanalyse or at John Hopkins University, he challenges complacency and complicity. He reveals how philosophy is not shackled by an exclusive, solitary memory or language: it is stereoscopic, polyglot, multi-linear even bastardized, crossbred and spliced. He calls for a new role for philosophy, one in which a rereading of Plato, for example, becomes as urgent a task as new scientific results. (Derrida 1996b) He adds a third space to columns of binary opposites: a space of tension, of sparks generated from divergent viewpoints. (1981:73).

Derrida cites and questions Plato's separation of live memory mneme from hypomneme. Archives are hypomneme along with inventories, citations, copies, lists and genealogies. (1981:107) The archives are an extension of writing, commodified by power brokers, the sophists. Socrates' words written by Plato, upheld the 'art of memory.' Writing was imperfect memory or even forgetfulness, dependent on signs; it was nonknowledge. (1981:105) The recital of 25,000 lines of Homeric verse over several days was a manifestation of the living word, of knowledge, of the promise of limitless memory. But Socrates, "he who does not write" was written. When Derrida came upon a 14th century Italian print from the Bodleian Library, reproduced mechanically as a postcard he was enchanted. It became a visual metaphor for the archival object: in the scriptorium Socrates is writing with Plato standing behind him. By examining the relationship between the two fathers of meaning in Western thought, Derrida opened a space for a rethinking of transgenerational patriarchal transmission. He brought Freud's ghost, his archives and his historian into the discussion. He reveals how secret archives and powerful archons dissimulate.

Derrida speaks and writes in a 'scriptless' hypertext, where intertextualitity can either enrich or confuse. Derrida's reflections on Plato, Freud, Yerushalmi are constructed into complex layers of texts that defy a linear structure such as this paper. Its content is better adapted to the nonlinear format of the webpage. Fascinating and thought-provoking connections can be extrapolated following Derrida's lead from papyrus to digitization. Both Plato and Freud circuitously lead us to the Black Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton who introduced a form of monotheistic religion c. 1379 - 1362 BCE with Aton the god of the universe subsuming both Thoth the moon god and Amon-re or Amen the sun god. Plato as scribe for Socrates used a myth to discredit myth over logos. In Socrates' version of the myth Thamus disparaged Theuth (Thoth) for inventing writing along with alchemy, geometry, astronomy and calculations. Theuth not only writes and represents Amon-Ra; he effectively replaced the god himself.

Freud investigated Egyptian monotheism as possible source of Moses' monotheism. To these layers I would suggest another, accessible through archives that are still underused by western inquirers. Questions of intellectual genealogy and inheritance can be enriched (although not answered) by accessing Islamic archives. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the Ptolmeac corpus influenced Islamic thought. Islamic law was informed by Solomon's judicial system. Further in these archives monotheism is traced to the Patriarch common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Abraham. How would Socrates hypothetical journeys to Palestine and Syria and the possible influence of Hebrew sages on Socrates himself impact on the concept of bastardized, hybridized and spliced philosophies? Answers as evidence are not the issue. The answers to Freud's question 'Was Moses Egyptian?' like Yerushalmi's 'Is psychoanalysis a Jewish science?' take second place to the open-ended questions themselves.

Derrida's papyrus and postcard connection led to the Bodleian Library. While reading my library copy of Postcards, the ghostlike presence of the postcard became so tangible, I almost expected 'a missing letter' scratched on the back of Plato and Socrates to fall out from between the pages. Following Derrida's trail electronically I accessed the Bodleian Library's medieval print section. The Bodleian Library seemed elusive, even exclusive: it is the main research library of the University of Oxford used by scholars from around the world. However, a number of their collections of medieval manuscripts are now available around the globe on-line. The mechanical reproduced images that appeared on my screen leaving their impressions were from Dante's Divine Commedia. In a northern Italian 14th century illustration Dante and Virgil observe Mohammed and Ptolemy, both condemned to inferno for their heresies. The same medieval censorship that suppressed Ptolemy's Geographia, and denied the monotheism of Islam, had also misread Socrates and Plato.

Was Artaud referring to Ptolemy when he proclaimed: 'The library at Alexandria can be burnt down. There are forces above and beyond papyrus: we may temporarily be deprived of our ability to discover these forces, but their energy will not be suppressed.' (1981: 53) Instead the secret archives becomes a spectre, a ghost, a phantom protecting itself from detection, repression, censorship and destruction.

An entire corpus of Greek knowledge was rejected by early Christians fearful that the spherical globe violated their fundamental religious beliefs. Navigation and cartography are inextricably interwoven. Yet the historiography of cartography of our biosphere is one of ransacked, missing, secret and recovered archives. In 391 AD Christians mobs sacked the Alexandrian library including Ptolemy's research. As Librarian of the Alexandrian, he had inherited centuries of Greek scholarship which he published in the Geographia. Arabo-Islamic scholars, unbridled by Christian fear of 'Greek science' translated and developed Ptolemaic maps for their journeys to India, Tibet and China. In 1154 Al-Idrisi, Arabo-Islamic geographer in a Sicilian court created a world map influenced by Ptolemy. The European period of world-wide expansion took place only after Medieval maps were replaced by Ptolemy's science. McLuhan suggested that without maps as a means of communication "the world of modern science and technology would hardly exist." (McLuhan 1964: 157-8) What will be the suppressed memories, the missing links on the maps of the infosphere, on the maps of the archives? Who decides the grid and the structure?

Digitized, indexed and linked image, stills and motion, sound and text can be mapped by one author then unwrapped and re-mapped by an active reader. Virtual objects seem to float dislocated from space and time connected only by links, those 'arrows frozen in time.' (Shields 2000) Once reproduced electronically, an urn, an 11th century map, a postcard letter or the Bodleian's 14th century version of Dante's Commedia are wrenched from the structure, context and content. John le Carré stated, 'Nothing exists without a context.' Descriptions and explanations can be lost leaving 'vast holes in memory.' Or the opposite can occur: Navigational tools, maps and charts can reintegrate structure to context and content. (Wallot 1996: 14) Through electronic embedding, for example, virtual images of Inuit sculptures, those silent ambassadors of a dynamic living culture, can hyperlink context and content in rich layers of information.

Concept maps are not innocent; they become tools for data interpretation and ways of assigning value and meaning. Maps are not draped over reality; they exclude. They are like Derrida's archontes, the archivists who wield authority (and power) over data, its interpretation, its storage and its accessibility. The archontes of electronic archives decide what is collected, described and classified or ignored, destroyed or virtually left hanging, unmapped and disconnected. What happens to the 'other' in cyber archives? If categories are not created, do they no longer exist? If there are no pointers, can they be found? Could the holocaust have happened in the age of electronic mail? Would there have been electronic traces of the crematoria?

"But of the secret itself, there can be no archive, by definition. The secret is the very ash of the archive. . ." Derrida's concept of archives bridges the technical, political, ethical and judicial with poetry and ghosts. In Feu le cendre the holocaust ashes of the crematoriums contain traces of memories, names, letters, photos, personal objects and even keys. The ashes become the pharmakon. They are both cure and poison; they remain but are gone. They are the incomplete archives, traces of the disappeared, traces that speak of that 'other' memory.

The censorship of psychoanalysis, 'a Jewish science' led to an ethos of protective secrecy about Freud's archives which continued throughout the 20th century. In 1885 and again in 1907 Freud completely destroyed all his correspondence, notes, diaries and manuscripts. (Yerushalmi 1994) He wrote Moses and Monotheism, his only work specifically on a Jewish theme on the eve of Nazi occupation of Austria. Shortly after Freud's forced exile to England and the completion of his manuscript, Freud died. His inquiry into the history of monotheism was a questioning of the role of religion itself. Was it possible to trace suppressed memories of a people as one can with individuals? Would such a project reduce religion to that of a social neurosis caused by deeply embedded and suppressed transgenerational memories? Freud wrote his first manuscripts knowing that censorship would prevent it from being read, at least in his lifetime. Catholic authorities were critical of psychoanalysis: this manuscript would provoke even greater antagonism. After his death any literature on psychoanalysis uncovered by the Nazis was incinerated as 'Jewish literature.' But Freud's psychoanalysis of Jewish history and Judaism also sent a shock wave through the Jewish community. He hypothesized like Otto Rank in 1909, that Moses was born to a Egyptian princess not to a Hebrew woman. Freud suggesting that Moses' monotheistic religion was actually based on an existing Egyptian monotheistic religion, Aten. Further he sought out clues to Moses' murder. In effect Freud was dismantling the Jewish claim to uniqueness. Freud died before the manuscript was published, without ever knowing the holocaust. He wrote for a secret archives, knowing readers were not ready, nor would they be until sometime in the future. Derrida describes the writing that seeks dissimulation as anarchives, the 'other' archives, the secret archives hidden from the flames of repression.

Yerushalmi's book Freud's Moses became an appeal to the spectre of Freud to reveal the contents of the secret archives, to provide answers that the archives did not hold. How did Freud's personal life relate to his teaching or to the history of the psychoanalytic movement? In the final dramatic, audacious chapter entitled 'Monologue with Freud,' Yerushalmi addresses Professor Freud's spectre in a 'fiction which [he] somehow do[es] not feel to be fictitious.' (Yerushalmi 1991:81) Yerushalmi implores Freud to reveal to him "When your daughter [Anna in 1977 declared that psychoanalysis was a Jewish science] conveyed those words to the congress in Jerusalem, was she speaking in your name?"

Was Freud being loyal to Judaism, through disloyality? Was he recognizing its weaknesses without rejecting it outright? Was he refusing alienation and victimization? Was he protecting his own true subjective freedom by refusing to accept in its entirety an inherited ethnicity, religion, culture or nationality? (Derrida 1996c)

Yerushalmi did not expect the archives to provide evidence of Freud's relationship to Judaism. But did he perhaps hope that Freud's collection of antiquities would reveal some specifically Jewish objects? None were exhibited in a travelling exhibition of Freud's antiquities in 1989. However, a year later exhibition curator Dr. Gamwell informed Yerushalmi, after he had sent off his manuscript, that at the Freud Museum in London, objects had been found "which are related to Freud's Jewishness." Included in the list of items was a Hanukkah Menorah which was in Freud's study during his lifetime and a 1913 postcard to Karl Abraham which shows the arch of Titus. On the image depicting the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE with soldiers removing the Menorah from the Temple, Freud wrote, "The Jew survives it!" (Yerushalmi 1991)

Freud used his vast collection of antiquities from Greece, Rome and Egypt to illustrate his remarks during his therapy sessions. He compared the relatively unchanging nature of the unconscious to the antique objects in the study which had been entombed and preserved, then uncovered, unchanged.

The pivotal object however was the rebound bible which Freud's father had presented to Freud on his thirty-fifth birthday in May, 1891. Yerushalmi became the first guardian, reader, doctor and the only legitimate archon (Derrida 1995:22) of Jacob Freud's Hebrew dedication, which Derrida himself analysed in detail. Derrida described the law makers who create and maintain the archives: Freud's father, Freud, Yerushalmi and the "arch-archiving of the family Bible of the arch-patriarch of psychoanalysis in the arca, cupboard, prison cell, cistern, reservoir." (Derrida 1995:23) Using this specifically Jewish artifact Derrida ties together strands that had been threading through Dissemination, Feu le cendres, Postcards and Archives Fever. The impression is left by the Jewish father on his son. The one who writes is written by the father in the presocratic language. The new skin of the Bible is covered with scar-like traces as reminders, as ways of remembering. The Bible as gift to the son continues to be the gift to Yerushalmi who yearned for the spectral presence of Freud.

The archives provide a deluge of information. But haunting questions remain: how does information become transformed into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom? (Yerushalmi 1994) This commitment to rereading history from papyrus to hypertext parallels the commitment to philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view. It is not merely theory for theory's sake. Gatekeepers of the archives (and collective memory) wield power. Access to information is more than a legal right: it becomes an indicator by which effective democracies can be measured. (Derrida 1996a: 4). The mapping of archives of the infosphere needs to be concerned with uncompromised inclusivity as constitutive of a renewed, unbound, effective democracy in which plurality can co-exist with social cohesion. It requires a consistent and constant vigilance against complicity and complacence. It involves nurturing and encouraging diverse ways of seeing, knowing and remembering. The architecture of deconstruction facilitates the round-tables of discussions which invite, welcome and propel rather than discourage, exclude, dismiss and prevent convergences of divergent thoughts. The sparks of discord can illuminate the ashes and dust of the (missing) archives.


Contact © Maureen Flynn-Burhoe 2000 for comments, corrections and copyright concerns.