07.- 11.06.

P 44: An African perspective on associations and the bureaucratization process


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?


01 Nicola Camilleri: Settlers and shooters. Political role and social function of shooting clubs in German colonies

Between the 19th and the 20th centuries in Imperial Germany the number of clubs and associations, mostly with nationalistic goals, experienced an enormous growth. In this context, shooting clubs were among the most popular form of association. Their origin frequently went back to Middle Ages or modern time, when their major goal was to defend small communities and villages. After an important engagment in civic life during the age of revolution shooting clubs were refashioned after the establishment of the German state. In this context they became players of the massive nationalization process which occurred in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.  Members of shooting clubs regularly got together to exercize shooting and handling with weapons, but at the same time they celebrated their sense of community and national belonging. Every city and every small village identified with its shooting club, and the seat of the association was recognized as a central point of reference for social life. Finally, in the process of modernization and burocratization of the German state, shooting clubs normally gave up their military and police nature to enshrine just a recreational and patriotic character. Starting from this standpoint my paper investigates social, cultural and political role of shooting clubs in German colonies. In fact, while Germany established itself as a national state, in the age of imperialism it also became a colonial power through the conquest of colonial territories in Africa, the Pacific and China. Especially in the colony of German South West Africa, German settlers animated a strong association life to keep the national identity in the settlers community alive. This operation was higly appreciated by colonial authorities. Yet, colonial authorities welcomed shooting clubs not only for their recreational activities in the colonies, but also because they could represent a stronghold in the defense of colonial state in time of anticolonial uprisings and wars. Armed civilians could represent a good support for colonial police and state authority. In this sense, shooting clubs in German colonies reconnect to the old tradition of the civil militias and deviate from the function they had in the metropolita context. My paper, which develops from within a bigger comparative project on political violence and armed associations in Europe before the First World War, is based on documents of the colonial administration and published sources of the German settler comunities (newspapers, memoires, etc.). Next to the definition of the (para)military role shooting clubs had in German colonies in Africa, the paper will also inquire how much they helped strengthening the division between colonizers and colonized based on concepts of race and civilization.


02 Koly Fall: Bureaucratic association or associative bureaucracy? Example of the bambourang-ba association (Senegal)

This paper is taken from my doctoral thesis on solidarity and informal practices in village associations. It focuses on bureaucratic practices within the Bamburang-Ba association. Bambourang-ba is a community organization based in Adéane, in the Ziguinchor region of southern Senegal. Its establishment and operation follow a set of bureaucratic procedures and practices put in place by the international organization ChildFund and the Dimbaya Kagnalen federation, a local NGO based in Ziguinchor. Within this association, bureaucratic practices are reflected in the mobilization of regulatory and administrative tools through the use of instruments such as internal regulations, association status, receipts, reports of proceeding, stamps, but also the organization of local elections and the establishment of deliberative, administrative and executive bodies. In fact, by retracing the stages of its creation and analysing its mode of organisation and operation, I identified two types of bureaucratic control. The first, which I call top-down, is manifested by the design of bureaucratic tools designed to frame and rationalize the administrative management of the association. The second type is said to be bottom-up. It is expressed through regular monitoring and bureaucratic control of all the association's activities. Finally, from a sociological perspective, I show the differences between the bureaucratic model of the association as conceived in the texts and by the international organisation ChildFund, and as it manifests itself on a daily basis. To conduct this study, I adopted an ethnographic methodology. I conducted about ten qualitative interviews (with the association's leaders and members), direct observations (during the association's meetings and working sessions) and documentary analysis.


03 Léo Montaz: Les associations villageoises de jeunesse à l'épreuve de la commune: le cas de Gagnoa, Côte d'Ivoire

Dans la région de Gagnoa, cœur du pays Bété au centre-ouest de la Côte d’Ivoire, les jeunes autochtones s’affirment depuis le début des années 1990 comme une catégorie politique influente au sein des villages. Partie prenante de cette dynamique, les “associations villageoises de jeunesse“ cristallisent les débats locaux quant aux rôles que doivent occuper les jeunes générations dans la gestion locale. Composées de l’ensemble de la jeunesse autochtone d’un village, ces associations tentent de jouer un rôle de premier plan en se présentant comme les mieux à même de développer leurs localités. Mais ces ambitions ne vont pas sans d’importantes résistances, tant de la part des aînés sociaux que des populations étrangères installées de longue date dans cette région.

Entre les années 1990 et 2018, ces associations ont mêlé les registres de l’informel et de l’officiel.  La plupart d’entre elles ne sont pas déclarées dans les préfectures et n’ont pas de statuts officiels, mais elles sont pourtant mobilisées en permanence par les hommes politiques – en particulier le sous-préfet et le maire de Gagnoa -, les partis politiques et les autorités coutumières pour servir de relais de communication vers les jeunes villageois. Elles sont aussi très impliquées dans les arènes politiques villageoises et régionales, et sont représentées à ce deuxième niveau par un « président régional de la jeunesse ». Malgré cela, les chefs de villages rappellent souvent que les présidents des jeunes n’ont pas de statut officiel, notamment afin de délégitimer leurs actions.

Cependant, en 2018, la mairie de Gagnoa et la sous-préfecture ont engagé un processus de reconnaissance et de bureaucratisation des élections des présidents des jeunes, notamment afin d’avoir un regard sur le déroulement de celles-ci mais aussi sur les profils des candidats, qui doivent dorénavant remplir un dossier administratif et s’acquitter de la somme de 20 000 Fcfa. En bureaucratisant les procédures pour accéder à la présidence des jeunes, la mairie et la sous-préfecture de Gagnoa contribuent à formaliser et à légitimer le statut et le rôle de ces présidents et de ces associations. Cette communication se propose d’étudier ce processus à travers une ethnographie de l’élection du président des jeunes de Mahidio, village périurbain à la commune de Gagnoa. À travers cette étude de cas, il s’agit d’interroger les processus qui concourent à formaliser les jeunes villageois comme une catégorie politique dans les arènes locales, mais aussi d’étudier l’enchevêtrement des normes dans un contexte déjà fortement marqué par la pluricéphalie des instances de décisions locales.


04 Modou Niang: The functioning of socio-economic, sporting and cultural association of Walo farmers (ASESCAW): between bureaucratic practices and traditional logics

This paper focuses on the functioning of farmers' organisations in the Senegal River Delta. It poses the problem of the appropriation of the values and rules that govern the functioning of farmers' organisations. The historical conditions of emergence, accountability, participation, complexity, diversity, proliferation, governance, autonomy and dependence of the latter are issues raised and dealt with. However, in revisiting the existing literature, we realised that reflections on the functioning of these organisations still required careful study, especially after the increasing disappearance of farmers’ organisations in Africa and particularly in the Senegal River Delta. Moreover, other pioneer and historical farmers’ organisations such as ASESCAW continue to function in spite of the internal and external obstacles encountered: conflicts within the organisation, periods of crisis, structural adjustments, socio-political games, positioning struggles, etc. In this configuration, we found it interesting to question the adaptation mechanisms of these collective frameworks, whose environment is marked by the presence of several logics.

Indeed, the research problem stems from the observation that these peasant organizations are part of an operating dynamic that mobilizes various bureaucratic instruments: offices, receipts, internal regulations, minutes, membership cards, debt books, etc. The problem of research is that these organizations are not always in line with the rules of the game. On the other hand, this functioning is based on traditional logics that call upon socio-cultural frameworks. Thus, we can ask ourselves this question: how do farmers’ organizations in the Senegal River Delta function in this context of cohabitation of the two organizational logics or reference systems?

Using the case of ASESCAW as a starting point, we seek to show the mechanisms of articulation and appropriation of bureaucratic practices and traditional logics as well as their effects on social relations and the functioning of peasant organizations. We intend to analyse two dimensions of bureaucratic practices: technologies and bureaucratic imaginaries. The latter correspond to written norms and rules: statutory and regulatory mechanisms. As for bureaucratic technologies, they can be summed up as working tools such as stamps and documents that are often meeting reports, membership cards, debt books, registers, due dates, cards, meeting notices, receipts, etc. These two dimensions will be correlated with traditional logics which are practices inspired by the socio-cultural substratum of the locality and which introduce the organisation and realities of the environment (principle of seniority, place and role of imams and village chiefs, etc.) in the functioning of farmers' organisations.

On the basis of semi-structured interviews and qualitative analysis, we first retraced the history of ASESCAW to show the role of bureaucratic practices in its emergence. In a second step, we showed how, starting from the “exigible” and the receipt, bureaucratic practices generate and condition relations of conflict and cooperation. In a third and final stage, we looked at the articulation of bureaucratic practices and traditional logics in order to highlight their effects on the functioning and dynamics of the organisation as a whole.

June 8 @ 10:30
10:30 — 12:00 (1h 30')

Zoom Room 4

Kamina Diallo, Laure Carbonnel

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