Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UCLA Department of Information Studies researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Cover page of False promise and new hope: dead perpetrators, imagined documents and emergent archival evidence

False promise and new hope: dead perpetrators, imagined documents and emergent archival evidence


When those accused of being high-level perpetrators of human rights abuse die before publicly yielding their secrets in legal and archival arenas, victims may simultaneously express relief about the perpetrator’s demise and grief that, along with it, possible crucial information about the past is lost forever. Although the accused do not usually directly admit their actions and the teasing out of what actually happened is dependent upon the complex processes of cross-examination of their testimony and of records and other forms of evidence, victims project such moments of revelation onto the public act of holding accused perpetrators to account. In their deaths, the accused become forever from-now-on unavailable and thus unassailable evidence – in essence; they are transformed into imagined documents that can never be cross-examined. In this construction, the would-be testimony of perpetrators is given epistemological validity over that of victims, offering up the false and unfulfillable promise of establishing a singular truth. Complicating this scenario, however, is the increasingly open-ended hope offered to victims, judicial processes and historians alike by the application of new forensic methods, for example, in the examination of gravesides and human remains, and by satellite footage, that are generating additional categories of evidence. Using the juridical and archival legacies of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Yugoslav Wars as case studies, this article argues that when perpetrators die before giving legal testimony, survivors and victims’ families construct them as unavailable documents with imaginary agency to settle competing versions of history. Such imagined documents enter into a complex landscape of human rights archives that has heretofore been exclusively focused on tangible evidence. First, this article frames the case of Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary, charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, who died before giving his testimony in a hybrid tribunal. In the face of diverse archival documentary evidence capable of presenting a more complete and complex picture of atrocities, it contemplates why survivors and victims’ family members placed high hopes on his potential testimony, essentially constructing him as a now-dead living document. Second, it explores a parallel case, that of the death of Slobodan Milošević while being tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and argues that the notion of a dead perpetrator as imagined document has less sway when the public has the opportunity to hear the perpetrator defend himself, regardless of the perpetrator’s own admission (or denial) of culpability. Third, it proposes the notion of imaginary documents. It argues that such imaginary documents challenge dominant conceptions of the evidentiary qualities of tangible records and the archival legacies of trauma by insisting on a more dynamic and holistic view of records that takes the affect of survivors and victims’ family members into account.

Digital cultural collections in an age of reuse and remixes


This paper explores the question of under what circumstances CI should seek to control non-commercial reuse of digital cultural works. It describes the results of a 2008 survey of CI professionals at U.S. archives, libraries and museums which gathered data on motivations to control access to and use of digital collections, factors discouraging control, and levels of concern associated with different types of unauthorized reuse. Analysis presents three general themes that explain many of the CI motivations for control:“Controlling descriptions and representations,” “Legal risks and complexities” and “Getting credit: fiscal and social costs and revenue.” It concludes by offering a set of examples of varying levels of reuse control (from none to complete) to serve as heuristics.

Cover page of Archival Activism: Emerging Forms, Local Applications

Archival Activism: Emerging Forms, Local Applications


In this essay the authors provide a summary history of archival activism, starting with the seminal 1970 speech by radical historian Howard Zinn in which he argued for archivists to rid themselves of notions of “neutrality”, and actively engage in socially meaningful work. The authors identify four different forms of archival activism: community archives; socially conscious work within government-funded and other “mainstream” archives (for example, by promoting institutional transparency and accountability); research-based activism (retracing radical or suppressed histories); and socially conscious work by institutionally-independent archivists. They describe several examples of local practical applications of archival activism, such as the work of the Southern California Library in South Los Angeles; the development of the National Chavez Center Archives; independent archivists providing assistance to migrant fieldworkers in the United States in safeguarding and identifying records documenting their immigration status and employment history; and the recent rediscovery of records of the Women’s Antifascist Front of Yugoslavia by independent researchers and its feminist reinterpretation.

Cover page of Permeable Binaries, Societal Grand Challenges, and the Roles of the Twenty-first-century Archival and Recordkeeping Profession

Permeable Binaries, Societal Grand Challenges, and the Roles of the Twenty-first-century Archival and Recordkeeping Profession


Building upon recent work, this paper demonstrates how 21st century recordkeeping concerns are integral to societal grand challenges that have been identified by governments, think tanks, scholarly organisations and affected communities around the globe. Using the example of forced displacement and migration the paper focuses on ways in which recordkeeping is inextricably linked to both the causes and possible digital, policy and educational mechanisms for addressing certain aspects of societal grand challenges. These linkages are significantly under-explored and under-addressed in our field. The paper's principal arguments are that archives and recordkeepers have social and ethical responsibilities toward those individuals who are least empowered to engage with official records and recordkeeping practices or to maintain their own records; and that responding will require implementing archival and recordkeeping practices and policy at supra-national and meta-archival levels. The paper suggests some actions and reconceptualisations therefore, that might move us in that direction.