The Work of Making Revolution
My dissertation investigates how workers transformed the “impossibility” of revolutionary demands into a concrete reality. What labor went into making what we now call "the French Revolution"?
My research on other kinds of labor is necessarily mediated by what administrators and archivists chose to preserve or destroy. To study labor throughout the revolutionary decade, I will temper theories of archival silences with concrete analyses of the work of archivists.
The traditional story of archives during the French Revolution has been one of destruction, of popular burnings of documents. But that is not the whole story.
In my research, I analyze archivists and their decisions of what to preserve in the new departmental archives and how to organize documents in the absence of national guidelines.
When national ministers ordered tableaux to be completed, they expected compliance and were unsympathetic and dismissive of protests that the workload was “impossible.” When departmental administrators set or managed quotas for production, they all but criminalized resistance. I examine the disconnect between expectations (seen through the rhetoric of a nation & all instructions for tableaux) & the alleged “impossibility” of implementing them. Revolutionary work consisted of at least as much drudgery as overtly political acts. Paying attention to material obstacles makes the failure of some revolutionary plans and the success of others comprehensible.