Psychoanalysis: An Archive That Could Have Been

“Let us not begin at the beginning, not even at the archive.”

It is challenging to comprehend what Derrida means in his first statement of the text— if we cannot begin at the beginning then how can we begin?  The meaning of this opening statement begins to materialize, as we continue to decipher Derrida’s thoughts.

He uses the word “arkhe”, meaning the onset, origin, or first cause, to express what he thinks an “archive” essentially is.  When speaking of commencement, a time of new beginnings, we often recall graduation ceremonies where diplomas and certificates mark a student’s new chapter of life, a new archive.  Derrida also uses the Greek root or archive, “arkheion,” to illustrate the concept that an archive is the home, dwelling, or residence of the authoritative figure that holds command.

Something I found elemental yet fascinating was the segment of Exergue on page 8.  Freud came to the realization that in order to make a worthwhile use of printing materials and something that civilization would deem valuable he must build upon the past by creating a new version or a mutation of what already exists.  He believed that one way to create a meaningful future was to alter the past.

Derrida writes about the impossibility of archival continuity of the Mystic Pad along with other flaws it held, but in the end he reminds us that it is merely a “child’s toy.”  Today spatial architecture and economy of speed are much larger and faster, respectively.  The question no longer deals with simple continuation in progress.

If the kind of technology we have today were alive during the same time Freud was adding to the psychoanalytical archive then the archive might be much more advanced or, perhaps, unrecognizable.  If that were the case Sigmund Freud might not even be known as the father of psychoanalysis.

-AW

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