This article deals with the question of how issues of late colonial housing in Zambia were passed through various segments and between various layers of an encompassing colonial administration. It is equally about the question how the researcher retraces that process of administering housing. The main argument is that a discourse clad in techno-scientific language in the colonial metropole assumed undertones of development and morality in the colony. The text pays particular attention to the bureaucratic individuals seizing opportunities – often in cooperation with one or two colleagues, or across racial dividing lines. Furthermore, the contribution ponders on the significance of the researcher's encounters with both archival staff in London and Lusaka as through these interactions initial research agendas become redirected and adjusted.
This article provides a particular history of the file. It does not focus on the content of specific files or the development of filing systems. Instead it moves files from a history of administrative writing to a history of information storage technologies. My argument is that if we get ›under the hood‹ of the filing cabinet and manila folder to understand how they work we learn how information was conceptualized and understood such that it could contribute to the goals of efficiency critical to corporate capitalism. It is the contention of this article that information is a historically specific concept and the early 20th century emergence of the tabbed manila folder and the vertical filing cabinet offer insights into the development of a distinctly modern conception of information as impersonal, discrete, and therefore easily extracted. I offer the concept of ›granular certainty‹ to show how information was conceptualize, practically constituted and organized. This emphasizes the overlap between the importance of efficiency’s embrace of standardization and the specific and a conception of information as something specific. The tabbed manila folder and the vertical filing cabinet emerged from this overlap between efficiency and information.
The file is synonymous with British bureaucracy but it had a long gestation from at least the 16th century. It emerged slowly from the chrysalis of the docket during the 19th century, differentially in the various departments of state and became a fixity following reforms in the aftermath of the First World War. Even then the system of recording information in government was not uniform and was subject to the exigencies of the financial crisis and the commitment of officials. Although India and the rest of the Empire had separate administration, there was very little attempt to manage and preserve information effectively. Most initiatives met only with partial success and were often resented by junior officials. Registries in keeping with long-held commitment to paucity in government spending were and are poorly staffed and resourced. This article traces the evolution of the file until its demise in the digital age.
Much has been said on the role of judges, legal officials, and courts in the making of colonial regimes. Nevertheless, historiography lacks specific methodological reflections on lawsuits in the Iberian Empires. In order to raise some methodological issues concerning lawsuits as primary sources, I argue that historians could also engage with legal files by looking at instead of just looking through them. In this sense, I seek to establish a dialogue with discussions that anthropologists and social scientists put forward concerning the role of documents as constitutive of bureaucracies and administrative institutions. In order to do so, I will focus on specific aspects of the Benguela District Court collection of legal files.
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory Project was launched by the former President Mandela in 2004 as a special project of the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF). In 2006, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees decided to adopt the Centre as the Foundation’s core operational function, a decision to be implemented in terms of a 5-year transition plan. In February 2012, the latter ended with a public announcement of the organisation’s new mandate to work in the memory–dialogue nexus and intention to unveil the Centre as a public facility in 2013. This fundamental organisational transition (with many subsidiary change management processes) was informed by four dedicated research interventions, all conducted within an overarching action research framing: an investigation of the ›memory for justice‹ tradition in South Africa and its possible institutional application by the NMF; a global benchmarking study of cognate institutions; a study of dialogue as an element of Mandela’s legacy in relation to the memory–dialogue nexus; and a marketing and branding survey. Verne Harris and Shadrack Katuu provide an account of these interventions, highlighting in each case the research designs and subsidiary research and analysis techniques. The article begins with a tracing of relevant historical and archival contexts and concludes with an assessment of the organisation’s change management process and the efficacy of the organisational research agenda.
This paper provides an analysis of micro-level processes in the land administration of two different monastic estates, Lambach in Upper Austria and Klosterneuburg in Lower Austria, in the 15th and early 16th centuries. It argues that several different institutional factors can be seen as driving forces of administrative progress and innovation. To keep up with not always congruent economic, legal and social demands, the two monasteries pursued different strategies in administering their landed property. Their approaches and advancements indicate that the development of bureaucratic use of written texts should not be seen as one of the ever-increasing rationalities but rather as the result of a multilayered cultural process.
The Institute for Pain Management in Kolkata, like other modern institutions, is organised by record keeping. But the central object of its records, pain, presents a fundamental challenge to documentation. Pain is marked by a non-relational attribute that limits attempts to communicate and express it. I follow the institutional life of one patient and his struggles with health care through his documentary productions. As the paper traces clinical management of his pain, a proliferation of medical records is revealed. The forms of this documentary multiplicity, its materiality and how it enacts pain’s therapeutics are described. The challenge of pain’s communication is addressed by translating a body in pain constituted through artefacts and intersubjective relationships to a body in pain that exists almost entirely on paper. This translation proves efficacious in the eyes of doctors and patients, and is critical to the management of chronic pain in Kolkata.
This article examines how dossier files informed the handling of personnel misconduct in Chinese work units using an investigation of adultery as a case study. By the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the disciplinary functions of the dossier system were an embedded feature of social control in the work unit, partially shifting responsibility for policing petty crime to local administrators. In this case, the revelation of an extramarital relationship in 1974 set off a bureaucratic operation to produce documentary proof of the alleged wrongdoing. The thick case file prepared by the work unit investigators grew to include a tranche of seized love letters, a series of dubious confessions, and detailed bureaucratic reports. The preparation of evidence bound for the dossier demonstrates the extent to which the demands of documentation formed a distinct end of the investigative process, while revealing how people and paper were mobilized to deal with a minor administrative affair.
In this essay I lay out an argument about the scholarship on the emergent rationality of files. Looking at the case of Heinrich Otto Meisner’s groundbreaking modern diplomatics of files and the conditions and possibilities that shaped the argument of his work both practically and politically, I suggest a model for the analysis of bureaucratic mediocracy in historical perspective. I argue for an historical anthropology that acknowledges the epistemic violence and politics of inclusion and exclusion in bureaucracy in order to arrive at an historical anthropology of reason that does not deny, but instead attempts to think through its unequal terms.
Files may seem an obvious topic for historians of public administration, but that is by no means self-evident. Despite the interest in files from sociologists and archival scientists in the early 20th century, historians have engaged more with the contents of files than with their genres, materialities and functions. After tracing the theoretical and methodological engagements with files from Max Weber and Heinrich Otto Meisner to Cornelia Vismann and Bruno Latour, we argue firstly that files are defined by their relation to other records they compile. At the same time, they transmute these documents into cases and bureaucratic objects. Secondly, just as files bring documents together, they connect the activities of individuals and organizations. However, we argue that the degree to which files are instruments of formal administrative control and organizational coherence has been exaggerated, obscuring the agency of users and the potential for files to serve other ends.