Decolonization and In_Visibilities in Colonial Archives

The FCO 141 Series and the (Redemptive?) Power of Placement

  • Riley Linebaugh PhD student at the Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture
Keywords: decolonization, archives, access, empire, Kenya, England, restitution


Taking up the theme of placement within the context of in_visibilities, this _Perspective shares a series of reflections on the location and availability of colonial archives. It makes specific reference to the FCO 141 series at the National Archives at Kew (England), a series of files released as the result of a 2011 reparations case against the British government for the authorized and systemic use of torture during a war (1952–1960) leading to Kenya’s constitutional independence. The series is comprised of files removed from across the world as Britain’s empire fell, and is located in England despite a fifty-year history of restitution demands. By looking at the ambivalent relationship between archival location and the socio-political placement of the colonial past in England and Kenya, this _Perspective considers how archival custody (re)constructs in_visibilities of the colonial past in the present.