In this article, in distinction to documentation as an epistemic understanding of documents, I will discuss the epistemology of documentality as an indexical theory of documental functions, which I will develop through Bruno Latour’s notion of information. This notion of indexicality is different than Suzanne Briet’s notion of indexicality (which I have discussed elsewhere (Briet, 2006)).

I will begin this paper with an historical problem that illustrates the issues of viewing documents as content representation. This is the problem identified by Vincent Debaene (Debaene, 2014) in early and mid-twentieth century French field anthropology of the “two book” phenomenon, which attempted to address a perceived epistemic distance between lived experience and its representation through scientific documents. The solution to this problem of presence and representation was the writing and publication by French anthroplogists of a second, more literary, document after the production of the scientific paper or book, which supposedly represented the experience of the anthropologist and the group under study more fully. I will argue that both texts, however, followed genre conventions and practices, which are neither more or less faithful to an original experience. I will argue that the notion of an original experience reflected in the content of the text misses the performatively indexical relationship of text to world and the role that this plays in scientific and other forms of documentality. In short, what Vincent Debaene identified as the French anthropologists’ quest for producing a “living documents,” which closes the gap between life and documental representation, is a Quixotic task, since the problem is not real but rather is a product of the epistemology of re-presentation, which forecloses from our understanding what really happens with scientific and other documents.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.