Documentalities: Evidence Beyond Proof

New School for Social Research: Anthropology

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Graduate Course
Degree Students (with Restrictions)
Spring 2024
Taught By: Ann Stoler
Section: A

CRN: 14787

Credits: 3

Documents are cultural artifacts with lives and itineraries of their own. While historians treat documents as the grist of their historiographic labors, they have often neglected to reflect on the content lodged in particular documentary forms. Anthropologists, on the other hand, once steered clear of documents altogether, passively, sometimes aggressively sharing Claude Levi-Strauss contention that ethnology defines itself by the study of “what is not written.” Neither of these postures and approaches holds today. Over the last decade there has been an explosion in attention both to visual and written archives, to “paper trails,” to “paper empires” and to the Latin root of documentation, docere, to the coercive and curative “teaching” task that documents and new forms of documentation perform that in turn challenge the criteria of credibility, evidence, and proof. In this seminar, we will look at the wide-range of fields and disciplines in which the nature of documentation has come into analytic focus and creative question. Our focus will be in part on what constitutes a document and the varied “hierarchies of credibility” to which different kinds of documentation are subject and dismissed or valorized as reliable proof. Not least, we’ll address how documents create the realities which they only ostensibly describe. Principles of organization, visual vs. written vs. verbal vs. digital forms of documentation are assigned different values, degrees of proof under specific conditions and at different times. Under the assault of the coronavirus, the graphic has been a crucial form of fact production, proof, dissemination of knowledge and site where the political is being played out and inequities of right and resource are fought over and challenged. Systems of storage and retrieval, forms of reproduction, technological innovation -- all shape the political forces to which they rise. Documentation can be vital technologies of rule in themselves, the apparatus that shape and permeate our lives.

College: New School for Social Research (GF)

Department: Anthropology (ANT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: February 4, 2024 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2024 (Tuesday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 10:28am EDT 5/26/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Tuesday
Times: 4:00pm - 5:50pm
Building: 6 East 16th Street
Room: 1108
Date Range: 1/23/2024 - 5/7/2024