Paragraph 37 (3):387-402 (2014)

Annie Ring Ring
Gonzaga University
This article turns its attention to the accounts that Foucault and Derrida made following their encounters with archives, and it relates these accounts to the files of the former East German secret police. Derrida and Foucault located differing qualities of authority in the archives that they consulted, yet they are shown here to converge around a problem of non-integrity in the structuration of the archive as supposed guarantor of epistemological sovereignty. A terminology of sovereign integrity dominates the Stasi's files, so that they sit in stark contrast with the literary and cinematic texts that grapple with the Stasi's legacy — texts that are beset with images of inconsistency and perforation. When read in dialogue with the poststructuralist accounts of the archive, these spy files and the cultural works that emerged after their opening enable new reflection on the ethics of visiting archives, as an act of doing justice that nonetheless risks collapsing the fragments of complex pasts into the narrative wholes of the political present.
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DOI 10.3366/para.2014.0136
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