Manoff vs. Halberstam vs. Ron Swanson

Earlier today, I was wasting away on my couch watching a never-ending marathon of Parks and Recreation, a sitcom centering around the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana. The plot of one specific episode was that of building a time capsule to be opened in fifty years. The goal was to give the best representation of Pawnee as possible. However, this quickly went sour as some of the townspeople wanted to include ashes of deceased pets and copies of Twilight.

Of course, I could no longer procrastinate writing a my blog post, since the topic of archiving was staring me so plainly in the face.

Manoff quoted David Greetham, who said that “all conservational decisions are contingent, temporary, and culturally self-referential, even self-laudatory: we want to preserve the best of ourselves for those who follow.” This particular part of Manoff’s essay stuck with me because I had never before considered that archiving may have an ulterior motive. In the simplest of terms, why save a picture of yourself from the awkward middle school years when you could just as easily save one of yourself from your senior year in high school after your braces and acne disappeared? According to Greetham and Manoff, “it is precisely those works that are not commercially successful or that have no achieved canonical status that are most in need of bibliographic conservation.”

I believe that this section of Manoff’s essay speaks directly to Halberstam’s interview, in which she says “Stupidity does not only function to blot out knowledge; it functions to produce knowledge in a different way.” She then uses Avital Ronell’s argument of “stupidity is not what stands in the way of wisdom, it actually is another way of having wisdom.”

Now, I’m not saying that picking and choosing what we archive is “stupid” by any means. I’ll be the first to shred my school pictures from the seventh and eighth grade. However, there is definitely the sense that we are altering the past for the future, or maybe the future for the past. Keeping with my previous analogy, when you great great grandchildren find your photo album, they’ll never know you were super awkward and weird looking. Which is kind of unfair, if you ask me.

Using Halberstam’s word “stupidity” with a wide brush, we can control how the future sees the past with our subconscious (and sometimes conscious, according to Greetham and Manoff) ulterior motives. And really, the word “control” brings us back to Derrida, because we do have complete control over how the future will see the past.

From the couch,



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