This panel explores the inter-regional and transnational dynamics implied by the role of archives on the African continent. We seek papers addressing the production and destruction, the making and unmaking, of conventional and alternative archives and monuments.
This panel explores the inter-regional and transnational dynamics implied by the role of archives on the African continent. Whereas scholars have identified political parties, paramilitary organizations, religious groups, corporate entities, and NGOs as arbiters of state power, we are interested in examining the making and unmaking of conventional archives and other forms of cultural and artistic expression in preserving and engaging with the past. Archives and monuments imply the production, preservation, and promotion of national identity. Yet their frequent neglect and even destruction reveal a deeply ambivalent relationship to the past. This panel builds on discussions held at the conference, "Archives of Post-Independence Africa and its Diaspora," in Dakar, June 2012, which was organized by CODESRIA, the African Studies Centre Leiden, and the University of California African Studies Multicampus Research Group. Various participants described, for example, how significant archival documents taken from the national archives in DR Congo have reportedly found their way into the hands of street vendors using them as paper to wrap prepared food. The construction of massive national monuments, such as Heroes Acre in Harare, as another example, celebrates a post-independence vision of African identity, while also serving as a politically charged exclusionary historical staging ground. We seek papers that query how various archives, from national to alternative forms, have fared under the postcolonial state, and finally, examine the extent to which they have served as instruments of state power.