This is a study of the methods by which anthropologists create specialist archives and of how those archives are used, with particular attention to the relations between scholarship and politics and the latter’s influence on the shape of anthropological knowledge. The issue is directly connected with the ways in which materials from fieldwork are used. The author relies on a media science approach, which emphasizes the role of users’ practices in articulating and ascribing meaning to both the documents and to the institution of the archive. On the basis of an analysis of the discourse connected with the working of ethnographic archives, the author advances twelve theses concerning their status and functioning in anthropology. At the same time, the author calls attention to the phantasmatic nature of archives, and to the apparent passivity, reactionariness, oppressiveness, and conventionality of using and commodifying archival materials. In addition, the author defines ethnographic archives.