Arquivo Morto: notes on institutional memory in postcolonial Mozambique

Presented by Euclides Goncalves

Monday, 10 September, 2018 - 15:00

In Mozambican bureaucratic practice “arquivo morto”, literally translated as “dead archive” refers to a site where documents that are inactive or have been taken out of circulation are kept before they are eventually destroyed. Starting from the arquivo morto, we explore the life cycle of documents backwards in order to understand the place of institutional memory in Mozambican governance. Based on ethnographic research in district administrations in northern, central and southern Mozambique, we show that the arquivo morto is not the primary locus of institutional memory. Differently than bureaucracies where information primarily kept and retrieved from sources in paper or digital support, Mozambican gives importance to individuals in position of political or bureaucratic authority. As a result, Mozambican governance is based on a shallow institutional memory, allowing for institutions and processes to be contested but also built anew according with the political and economic context of the day.

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