Political Exclusion and Archival Division: French Archives and the Vichy Past

Aliza Luft, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper analyzes the political construction and symbolic implications of archives pertaining to World War II in France and introduces the concept of archival division as a way to examine archives as sites of power. Specifically, it examines the silence of French state and religious archives concerning the forced concentration, expulsion, and mass murder of Jews from France during the Holocaust, while separate and specifically Jewish-and Holocaust-related archives contain documentation pertaining to Jews’ experiences during this same time period. In constituting the past through distinct archives, this separation of documents reveals an ongoing exclusion of Jews’ and their experiences from the narrative of French national and Catholic religious history, despite the fact that Jews’ trajectories were deeply intertwined with decisions made by French state and religious authorities during this same time-period. Generalizing from this case, the paper argues that although archives are often thought of as neutral sites that contain objective evidence about time-periods passed, decisions of categorization and classification are embedded in the very production of the documents contained in archives and shape the telling of history as a result.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 158. Archival Work as Qualitative Sociology II: Case Studies