Dokumentarische Evidenz – Zu einem besonderen Genre sprachlicher und praxeologischer Vergangenheitserkenntnis

Workshop of the Leibniz Research Alliance »Value of the Past«

All narratives of the past—be they scientific or not—feature the historical document or the documentary principle as a key factor of the intended evidence. In everyday language, documents and the documentary are attributed great authority; in epistemic reflections they are assigned high priority. be it in the form of a written document, a photograph, or historic film footage, the document becomes testament to or even proof of facticity and authenticity. It claims special significance and articulates a generally binding principle as if it were the guarantor of the truth of its own historical narrative.

Documentations are a genre in their own right, they should be viewed accordingly. Documentarism formulates its interests and aims through a number of factors, i.e., by distinguishing texts from other texts and using quotation marks to mark them as quotations, or by commenting on images or film footage in a way that transforms them from illustrations into an arguments. However, even documentarism requires narrativity while simultaneously co-creating it, working ahead of it, and directing it in a certain way. It thus prepares the credibility of statements which are then transferred to para- and metatexts. From this perspective, all documents are involved in both text and metatext. They keep their distance to the common text while simultaneously being closely intertwined with it.

What’s more, the documentary principle appears as a manifestation of practices, i.e., in the reenactment of historical and mythical pasts, in costumes, stagings, and literal »embodiments.« Here, it is not only the supposedly original practices of the documented individuals that leave their indexical traces with the document, but also the operative handling of documents in other situations and practical contexts: the documentations and the handling of documents (archiving, analysis, edition, publishing) are subject to changes through practices over time. Maybe counterintuitively, the specific perspective on documents as manageable, traceable, and transformed media of knowledge makes them appear as fluid, dynamic, but also as social, cultural, potentially political, and legally negotiated or yet-to-be negotiated “practical objects.”

For research interested in the value of the past, this means recognizing and reflecting on the changeability of the documentary epistemic foundation as well as the transformations potentially caused by one’s own work on documents. Upon closer inspection, the documentary’s evidentiary character is based on textual or praxeological methods, practices, and ascriptions. These are constantly evolving, potentially even competing with one another. The very fact that the presentation and exhibition of documents and document collections in itself contains both »time« and historicity points to the particularly interesting historicity of documentary evidence.

Workshop organized by the Lab 1.1 »Language, Performance and Lifeworlds« of the Leibniz Research Alliance »Value of the Past« in cooperation with the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL), Berlin

3 to 5 July 2024
Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin

Concept and organization: Dr. Nicolas Berg (DI) und PD Dr. Barbara Picht (ZfL)