Calls From the Archive: Connecting Margaret Mead, Theodor Wistrand, and some other dead relations

Blake Wilson, Tara. 2014. Calls From the Archive: Connecting Margaret Mead, Theodor Wistrand, and some other dead relations. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

No full text available
[img] Text (Calls From the Archive: Connecting Margaret Mead, Theodor Wistrand, and some other dead relations)
MED_thesis_BlakeWilsonT_2014.pdf - Accepted Version
Permissions: Administrator Access Only

Download (12MB)

Abstract or Description

This practice-research thesis is a response to two related calls: the call of deceased figures from the archive to the living, and the call for the living to produce archives, to (never) become deceased. These calls are understood through, respectively, Avital Ronell’s conceptualization of haunted writing and Jacques Derrida’s notion of archive fever. Ronell’s concept, coined in Dictations: On Haunted Writing (1986), emerges in tracing the enduring posthumous power of Goethe who, after his death, continued to speak to and through other writers. In Archive Fever (1995) Derrida introduces the term via the relationship of the historian, Yerushalmi’s, relationship to Freud’s work, arguing that archive fever is a compulsion to return to the place of commencement; a homesickness that is constituted by a competing anarchivic destructive drive.

The response draws on ethnography, post-structuralism, experimental literature and historiography in what can be termed a work of creative-critical writing or ficto-criticism. The three main archival collections that the thesis engages with are The Wistrand Collection at the Screen Archive South East, The Margaret Mead Collection and Pacific Ethnographic Archives at the Library of Congress, and the informal archives of the recently deceased mother and grandmother of the candidate (who writes about herself in the third person under the pseudonym ‘Scarlet’). The method is one of written assemblage akin to found-footage filmmaking. By creatively connecting these three archives, along with the personal lives of the theorists used to examine them, new perspectives and understandings are produced, in particular on ethnography and the avant-garde during the inter-war period, as well as previously unexplored literal and figurative links between Jacques Derrida, Kathy Acker, Maya Deren and Margaret Mead. More broadly, the thesis aims to build on Ronell and Derrida’s ideas by putting them in empirical motion, and to set out a new creative-critical model for approaching archival collections.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Ethnography, Derrida, Archives, Surrealism, Bali, Fictocriticism, Margaret Mead, Avital Ronell, Amateur Film, Home Movies, Nanking Massacre, 1930s, Maya Deren, Autobiography, Haunted Writing, Archive Fever

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


July 2014

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

28 Oct 2014 10:35

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:02


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)