Arkivets ”tiderum”

Om Sara Lidmans skuggtexter

  • Annelie Bränström-Öhman Umeå universitet


As a place for scientific research, the archive may be stationary or mobile – or even a virtual site. Alongside its function as a source for empirical study, the archive holds several other crucial qualities, which highlight the complexity of all epistemological endeavour, including its metaphorical or symbolical aspects. Thus, “archive” or “archival” have been frequently used keywords in recent debate and research, from feminist theory to art theory. Jacques Derrida’s striking metaphor of “mal d’archive” – archive fever – has been followed by several more or less related thought figures, out of which Sara Ahmed’s image of “the unhappy archives of feminist theory” and Ann Cvetkovich’s ”Archive of feelings” have been the most influential.

However, among archives, an author’s archive always holds an exceptional position, located as it is on the threshold between private, personal and public. Remaining objects, imprints of intimate articulations of emotions in diaries and letters are systematized side by side, often in chronological order, with manuscripts, drafts, articles, etc. As such, an author’s diary never tells just one story – but shelters the potential of many, written and unwritten stories, manifest or hidden. In this way an author’s archive can be said to form a “time-space” of its own, in which the material layering of memories, narrative patterns and lived experiences both resist and challenge archival ordering principles.

Making its departure from the archive of Swedish novelist Sara Lidman (1923–2004), the aim of this article is to reflect on the encounter between the researcher and the author in an archival context. The methodological and stylistic approach is experimental, making use of personal diary writing as a means to enfold the tactile and sensual aspects of the “archival experience”. The article thus argues that archival research must be recognized as an emotional as well as epistemological and intellectual practice.