This chapter explores the archive – in the broadest sense the repository of visual, oral and written traces of the past in the present – in relation to processes of both remembering and forgetting. It centres on some difficult records produced by state bureaucracy – those outlining the deportation of aliens in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century – and explores them for what they reveal and conceal about the ethnic minorities they sought to police. And it considers the resonances of the earlier, often still pervasive, unease about the figure of the immigrant in the memory work conducted by contemporary museums that seek to recuperate the migrant as a positive presence. What lies at the heart of the discussion that follows is the problem of silence in and about this archive. What remains unspoken in the original records and later museal – and other – representations of the migrant experience? What are the implications of those silences either for our national stories about the past or for memory work within ethnic minority communities? What – as historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot has asked in a different context – is the relationship between the silences of the archive, memory and power?1

By analysing two case studies of a Jewish prostitute and a West African sex offender, the chapter asks whether it is even possible to re-establish the human agency of these ‘subalterns’ deported as aliens by the British state; and further how migrant history and heritage confronts such troubling pasts. It concludes by querying whether, in constructing both majority and minority narratives, the option of forgetting is morally valid in the process of carrying out memory work. Where migrants are concerned, forgetting lies at the heart of both official

and popular versions of the British ‘island story’. In recent Home Office public declarations and in the formal documentation for contemporary citizenship tests in the UK, much is made of the allegedly positive reception given to those seeking asylum in the past: ‘Britain is proud of its tradition of providing a safe haven for people fleeing persecution and conflict.’ A narrative of generosity stretches from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with ‘Protestant Huguenots from France [escaping] religious persecution’ and continues through to the twenty-first century.2 The Huguenot refugees especially became the model refugee group: in state and popular mythology they possess

the ideal characteristics. In later memory work, they are perceived as genuine – as victims of a religiously intolerant (Catholic) state that was also the demonized enemy of Britain (France) – and they integrated well, contributing new skills (especially in business and science) and becoming loyal members of society. Ambiguities with regard to their treatment, integration and loyalty have been smoothed over to create a storyline that is flattering to both these particular refugees and the receiving society.3 East European Jews at the turn of the twentieth century, refugees fleeing Nazism during the 1930s and, most recently, Ugandan Asians in the 1970s have been added to this reassuring narrative, which conflates Britishness with what Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown referred to in 2004 as an intrinsic British commitment ‘to tolerance and fair play’.4