Michael Moss - University of Glasgow
Professor of Archival Studies and Director of the Information Management and Preservation MSc programme. I have written extensively on archival and historical topics. My most recent publications include an essay on ‘Brussels Sprouts and Empire’ for a book on the philosophy of gardening and another on the place of trust in archival discourse. The principal users of archives, both locally and nationally, are a genealogist, whose motivation are little explored but seems to encompass a search for identity and temporal belonging within a connected community. What do such intensions mean in our plural urban society? Is it simply a curious nostalgia or is there a genuine desire for identity that is located in more than present time? The use of archives has long been recognised as raising significant questions about the sense of time. Contemporary archival literature posits a view that archives are always in a ‘state of becoming’, because their interpretation is always influenced by the present, by location and the user’s perspectives and interests. If this is the case then it raises fundamental questions about what is meant by concepts of authenticity, accountability, veracity and trust that are not trivial, particularly when set in the context of events such as the war in Iraq or the decision to close local libraries. In democratic societies it can be argued that the archive acting fiduciarily and protected by the rule of law is an essential bulwark for our liberties as it holds the evidence to call those in authority to account.
My interest in the themes of the workshop is ethnographic and comparative. My first book involved a community – strongly self-identified as such – in the southern USA, where the temporal idioms of progress and salvation played against each other as rationales for personal choice and community development. The intricate intertwining of secular and sacred discourses of time (and eternity) in that project became the theme of subsequent work -- a comparative ethnographic account of local ideas of community, in collaboration with David Engel and Barbara Yngvesson (Law and Community in Three American Towns ), and in a book on the anthropology of time (A Moment’s Notice ). In the latter work, my focus was on what Emile Durkheim called social time – both as a sign of divergent constructions of agency (within social science), and as a repertoire of political symbols (in contested states). My interest in the relationship of ethnographic and political discourses of community and democracy has continued (in edited volumes: Ethnography and Democracy , Ethnography in Unstable Places [edited with E. Mertz and K. Warren, 2002], and Ethnographies of Neoliberalism ). And meanwhile, U.S. social policy highlights emergent stakes in the politics of time (mainly through markets and counter-terrorism) in relation to larger questions of solidarity and belonging (The Paradox of Relevance ). My presentation for the workshop takes up some of those terms – drawn from legislation affecting civil rights, welfare, immigration and deportation. The title for my remarks is: Time In, Time Out, Time’s Up: Regulating the Temporality of Inclusion and Exclusion. I very much look forward to the workshop.