In recent years, much scholarship has revealed how archives and archival artefacts mediate processes of knowledge extraction, production, and representation. Yet, there remains a certain assumption of the archive's transparent availability as a given location for disciplinary work. This essay asks how less visible forms of mediation organize the critical conceptualization and experience of archival inquiry. It examines these conceptual questions through a focus on the 1971 JVP (Janata Vimukti Peramuna—People's Liberation Front) insurgency, a pivotal but now neglected event in Sri Lanka's political history. I explore how an authoritative monograph on the insurrection and its archive have mediated its problematization and enabled its nationalist recuperation. I ascertain the political stakes of returning to the event by locating the supervening context for my own interest in the insurgency, a discursive archive of the disciplinary conceptualization of Sri Lankan political modernity, its characteristic preoccupations, and their effects. I suggest that the event of 1971 offers a locus from which to examine a normative narrative that this archive yields. Recounting how these stakes animated my experience of the liberal archive, the paper's final section asks how different forms of archive implicate distinctive ethical practices and subjects of reading. I pursue this question through the representation and reading of 1971 within what I term the JVP's own pedagogical “archive.” I conclude by reviving a postcolonial concern with the critical stakes of disciplinary investigation and suggest a different approach to the problem of “ethnicized” postcolonial modernities.
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