Michael Karabinos

Here or There? Locating the Karel 1 Archive

Henri Van Abbe, benefactor of the Van Abbemuseum, made his fortunes in the tobacco industry in the first half of the 20th century. Michael Karabinos research will aim to trace the source of Karel 1 tobacco in Indonesia and its links to the colonial system. Using the archive of the Van Abbemuseum, as well as the regional archive in Eindhoven, the Nationaal Archief in Den Haag, and archives in Indonesia, he aims to shed light on the colonial history of Henri Van Abbe, the tobacco industry and subsequently the museum.

A single story cuts across multiple archives. As such, he works across different archival institutions to define (and decolonize) the van Abbe archive. Given this strong link to the colonial system, his Deviant Practice project within the van Abbe archive seeks to discover the possibilities of ‘decolonizing the archive’. To decolonize we must recognize the colonial in the archive. We must understand the creators and their goals. But first, ‘the archive’ must be defined.

Michael Karabinos is an archival theorist based in Amsterdam. He received his PhD from Leiden University in 2015. Combining questions on the nature of archives with their role in the decolonization of Southeast Asia, he has had work published in Bijdragen tot de land- taal- en volkenkundeInformation & Culture, and The Journal of Contemporary Archival Science, among others, and is co-editor of the book Colonial Legacy in Southeast Asia: The Dutch Archives. He is a former visiting fellow at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and previously served as the director of the National Geographic Map Collection in Washington, DC (USA).