Cover of Reading the Archival Revolution by Cristina Vatulescu
Reading the Archival Revolution
Declassified Stories and Their Challenges
Cristina Vatulescu

November 2024
320 pages.
from $32.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503640276
Paperback ISBN: 9781503641020



The opening of classified documents from the Soviet era has been dubbed the "archival revolution" due to its unprecedented scale, drama, and impact. With a storyteller's sensibility, Cristina Vatulescu identifies and takes on the main challenges of reading in these archives.

This transnational study foregrounds peripheral Eastern European perspectives and the ethical stakes of archival research. In so doing, it contributes to the urgent task of decolonizing the field of Eastern European and Russian studies at this critical moment in the region's history. Drawing on diverse work ranging from Mikhail Bakhtin to Tina Campt, the book enters into broader conversations about the limits and potential of reading documents, fictions, and one another. Pairing one key reading challenge with a particularly arresting story, Vatulescu in turn investigates Michel Foucault's traces in Polish secret police archives; tackles the files, reenactment film, and photo albums of a socialist bank heist; pits autofiction against disinformation in the secret police files of Nobel Prize laureate Herta Müller; and takes on the digital remediation of Soviet-era archives by analyzing contested translations of the Iron Curtain trope from its 1946 origins to the current war in Ukraine. The result is a bona fide reader's guide to Eastern Europe's ongoing archival revolution.

About the author

Cristina Vatulescu is Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, New York University and the author of Police Aesthetics: Literature, Film, and the Secret Police Archives in Soviet Times (Stanford, 2010).

"A powerful reflection on the work—and the ethics—of reading and writing. In warm, confident, at times wryly funny prose, Vatulescu invites the reader to reflect not just on how they read, but on who they are when they read."

—Alice Lovejoy, University of Minnesota

"Archival Revolution is unique, rich, and absorbing. Vatulescu's methodology is striking, with lessons reaching beyond police states, and her strategy is creative and generative."

—Ann Stoler, The New School