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Radio : voice : archive

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  • "We think of archives as musty old rooms full of crumbling texts and objects, each one material and tangible and one of a kind -- the evidentiary traces of history. But what if an archive came in the form of a voice? And not even the indexical trace of a voice as it emerges from a live peaking body, but a "radio voice," captured on tape in the moment of its broadcast? Drawing upon my experience with the archive of a radio show hosted by my late grandmother, this essay is a meditation on the nature of archival inscription, transmission, and reception; on materiality (tapes, scripts, radios) and immateriality (voice, words, ether); on aural and visual and haptic ways of knowing; on genealogy, legacy, and loss. Listening closely for my grandmother's live "radio voice" in her tape-recorded one, I suggest that the ether may be a more apt and enerative metaphor for "the archive" in both theory and practice: sufficiently material to fit within our current metaphysical paradigm, yet immaterial enough to allow room for the many kinds of virtual archives we are already creating, many more of which no doubt lay ahead. Part homage to Barthes' Camera Lucida, part entry into the discourse about "the archive" inaugurated by Derrida's Archive Fever, the essay merges personal reflection with theoretical inquiry, both enacting and examining the process by which we look to archives to navigate our lost pasts and anticipate our future ones."

  • "Radio : voice : archive"