The Postcolonial Archive and Method: field notes from the Tanzania National Archive

Authors: Rakhee Kewada*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Africa, Qualitative Methods, Political Geography
Keywords: Archives, Methods, Postcolonial Studies, Tanzania
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Tanzania National Archive was established in 1962, following Tanzania’s Independence and with the assistance of external aid. Colonial records housed at the National Archive are limited, with the colonial authorities having destroyed much of the material deemed sensitive. The Archive’s collection of postcolonial records, however, is even more sporadic and largely limited to national and regional government documents in the period between 1967 and 1971. Postcolonial scholars have long noted the colonial bias of national archives in former colonies. Yet, the problematic state of postcolonial record-keeping and its implication for historical and geographical research has received limited attention to date. This paper considers the methodological implications of massively under resourced national archive collections in the Third World, and in Africa in particular. Drawing on field notes from research carried out at the Tanzania National Archive, I explore the ways in which researchers must address lapses in record keeping and the damage or destruction of documents, issues of access, and erratic regulatory systems. I argue that innovative approaches to historical geography are necessary, and that knowledge production in this context is especially urgent given the dearth of official records.

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