INTRODUCTION
Pornography, Technology, Archive
Tim Dean
The volume’s title, Porn Archives, conjoins terms with opposing connotations:
pornography evokes an ostensibly private experience, while the archive con-
jures publicly accessible records; porn tends to be semisecret, unofficial, and
stigmatized, while archives signify officialdom and state approbation; porn’s
appeal lies partly in its lack of respectability, whereas archives are nothing if
not respectable—so much so, in fact, that putting pornography into the ar-
chive is widely regarded as a good way of killing its appeal. If porn is juicy,
then the archive is dry as dust. Archives offer sites of preservation and perma-
nence, whereas porn is commonly considered to be ephemeral and amenable
to destruction, no less so by its fans than by the police. Given these opposing
meanings, in what sense can we speak of “porn archives”?
This volume is built on the premise that pornography as a category emerges
in tandem with the archive, through historically specific procedures of se-
questration. Rather than being opposed, pornography and the archive come
into being together as functions of modernity. Although historians and crit-
ics (such as Lynn Hunt, Walter Kendrick, and Frances Ferguson) have recog-
nized pornography as a central feature of modernity, insufficient attention
has been paid to the role of archiving practices in pornography’s historical
development. We suggest that it is impossible to understand the contempo-
rary proliferation of porn without appreciating the history of its archivization.
The chapters assembled here respond to that gap in historical understanding
by thinking through the complex interrelationship between various pornog-
raphies and the archives that condition them.
This project has become both possible and necessary as a result of rapid
advances in digital technology that, over the past decade or so, have dramati-
cally increased not only access to porn but also awareness of the significance
of archival techniques. Whether or not we consult porn online, we’re all con-
stantly accessing archives electronically in ways that prompt reflection on the
status of the archive. In this context, it has become evident that critical dis-
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