22.- 25.9

P 44

An African perspective on associations and the bureaucratization process

Laure Carbonnel (Anthropology), IHA-CREPOS
Kamina Diallo (Political science), Sciences Po Paris – CERI


Short abstract:

The aim of this panel is to examine to what extent the bureaucratization of associations occurs in Africa and within its diaspora. How does Africa challenges bureaucratization processes through its different types of associations?

 Long abstract:

The notion of association refers to different social organizations: guild, professional group, cooperative, brotherhood, tontine, grin, religious society among which we find what we call here bureaucratic associations i.e. groups that are characterized by a specific way of associating that engages its members in a series of bureaucratic practices (registration with administrations, drafting of statutes...). The aim of this panel is to highlight to what extent bureaucratic practices affect the different forms of way to organize as a group, and the way these different forms of organization may affect the bureaucratization processes.

Studies on associations constitute a central research in the social sciences. They have mainly focused on associations as social areas (culture, health, religion) and/or the categories of people who meet there (youth, women…). However, the type of social organization itself was rarely questioned, particularly on the African continent and/or in its diaspora. Bureaucratic associations are sometimes considered as the influence of the colonization as some other forms of bureaucratic practices. But it doesn’t explain how these practices are created in daily life at the intersection of different practices. Bureaucratic association is a space of sociability, a particular way for individuals to come together and act collectively. It is both in contact with state administrations; it partly reproduces its bureaucratic mode of governance while maintaining an innovative potential; it also intertwined different forms of normative and ideological systems.

Laws and official texts often cited by these bureaucratic structures, present a standardised way to declare an association to the administration according to each country. But what about the path leading to this declaration and the commitment of its members to bureaucratization? This raises questions about why an association may register and vice versa, why some associations may not register while adopting a number of bureaucratic practices. After registration, the actors are also legally free to organize themselves as they wish. What bureaucratic practices does each association adopt and why? What does this form of association mean for the actors?  Who are the actors of bureaucratization and what are their trajectories? How are bureaucratic relations defined and how do they relate to social relations?


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