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Amanda J. Reinke

Documents are part of interactive sociocultural worlds in which ethnographers can analyse topics such as power relations, social struggle, violence and secrecy. While they emerge from bureaucratic administration, apparently mundane and stagnant documents represent dynamic processes of decision-making, knowledge production and exclusion. I consider ethnographic research on documents and their production as one that offers significant insights into bureaucratic violence and the tensions between formality and informality in alternative dispute resolution in Virginia and the San Francisco Bay Area. This article discusses working with documents that are simultaneously bound by law and exist extra-legally. While documents are used to gain economic support, strengthen relationships between non-profit and government bodies, and evidence ‘success’, the processes have difficulties. The data demonstrate that bureaucratisation has resulted in cumbersome processes and expensive requirements that mirror the exclusion and power asymmetries of formal law itself.

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Documenting Impact

An Impact Case Study of Anthropological Collaboration in Tobacco Control

Andrew Russell and Sue Lewis

In this article we consider the 'impact case study' (ICS) as a specific kind of document, one which, as part of the U.K.'s Research Excellence Framework (REF), enforces a common template for the description and measurement of the social and economic effects of research in U.K. higher education. We track the development of an ICS describing anthropological research in tobacco control which, after many iterations, was not submitted as part of the REF. We ask 'what is impact?' in cases where anthropological research is based on principles of collaboration and serendipity rather than the mechanistic 'research > translation > impact > measurement' model which an ICS is expected to follow. What is included and what excluded by the strictures of such a model? We are generally supportive of the impact agenda, feeling that university resources and activities have a vital role to play in progressive social change. However, the way 'impact' is recorded, appraised and measured in an ICS only captures a small proportion of the effects of anthropological research, and encourages particular forms of public engagement while discounting others.

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Ekaterina B. Tolmacheva

visual documentation of conventional everyday life. Following this, photography became widely used to document the outside world and from the 1880s on, it became impossible to find a significant expedition taking place without photographic coverage

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The Effects of Elusive Knowledge

Census, Health Laws and Inconsistently Modern Subjects in Early Colonial Vanuatu

Alexandra Widmer

In this article, I discuss two roles of documents in the creation and enforcement of public health laws in early colonial Vanuatu and their implication in colonial attempts to transform ni-Vanuatu societies and subjectivities. Colonial officials of the British-French Condominium based their projects on their admittedly partial knowledge in reports generated by experts studying depopulation. This knowledge, I argue, produced a ‘population’ by categorizing people according to their relationship with a reified notion of culture. The Condominium enforced health laws by sending letters to people categorized as Christian who would, the Condominium hoped, adhere to the regulations as self governing subjects. Officials would engage in persuasive conversations when they enforced the regulations in ‘bush’ villages. I conclude by reflecting on ni- Vanuatu knowledge of well-being and illness that could not be represented or documented and its centrality for subjectivities that might elude, if not subvert, the modern subject presumed by colonial strategies of governance.

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Populist Transparency

The Documentation of Reality in Rural Paraguay

Kregg Hetherington

This article is an ethnographic account of the politics of transparency in Paraguay that focuses on the circulation of a particular binder full of photocopies from the land registry during Paraguay’s embattled “transition to democracy.” The concept of transparency posits a representational relationship between documents and reality – i.e. governments are transparent to the extent that they generate faithful and accessible documentary representations of their activities. The article suggests that the difficulty of creating a critical analysis of transparency has less to do with representations than with contention over what counts as reality. The Paraguayan case suggests that we might benefit from rethinking transparency through the logic of populism, in which reality is itself created in the relationship between leaders and their followers.

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Papering Over the Gaps

Documents, Infrastructure and Political Experimentation in Highland Peru

Annabel Pinker

This article tracks the political effects of documents produced in relation to a public infrastructure project in the Peruvian Andes. By contrast with the recent focus on bureaucratic documents as aesthetic artefacts and instances of institutional form, I attend to the political processes enacted through project papers, exploring how their relational, material, affective and referential dimensions opened up spaces of political experimentation. In particular, I suggest that the power of documents to mediate the regulatory ambiguities incurred by Peru's ongoing decentralization lies partly in their capacity to espouse normative formality whilst always hinting at the possibility of its undoing.

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Governing through paperwork

Examining the regulatory effects of documentary practices in a refugee settlement

Sophie Nakueira

Documents play an important role in the lives of refugees. However, little is known about the extent to which documents regulate the everyday lives of refugees and the anxieties of obtaining relevant paperwork for refugees seeking resettlement in the Global North. Although their lives are regulated by paperwork, refugees also use documents strategically to legitimise various claims and entitlements. This article shows how refugees interface with the administrative processes that seek to regulate their stay. Therefore, documentary practices become important tools through which processes and objectives of migration governance can be examined. This article seeks to contribute further insights on how the deployment of documents entrenches discourses of vulnerability, the role that paper regimes play in (re)producing processes of exclusion through administrative processes in humanitarian aid contexts and the revelations of documentary practices or paper regimes about those who govern and those who are governed by these practices.

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Postface

Anthropology, bureaucracy and paperwork

Thomas Bierschenk

This postface links the contributions to this special issue to wider concerns in the anthropology of bureaucracy and the history of this disciplinary subfield. Anthropologists focus on documentary practices: how documents are produced, how they are being used (not always in the sense originally given to them by the producers), how they might be ‘brokered’ and how they are being contested – mostly by the production of other documents. The postface points to the epistemological implications of an anthropology of bureaucracy, under the term of ‘complicit positioning’, and argues for acknowledging the double face of bureaucracy and paperwork, as a form of domination and oppression, as well as of protection and liberation, and all the ambivalences this dialectic entails.

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Online Documents of India’s Past

Digital Archives and Memory Production

Katja Müller

how digital possibilities transform the production of memory based on historic material. Digitalization and online dissemination of historic photographs, objects, and documents can be a way to reach large audiences, who may consequently get involved

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Caritas Luxembourg and Norry Schneider

The first version of the declaration (“Outcome Document”) for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or ”Rio+20”), the “Zero Draft”, was released by the UNCSD Secretariat in January 2012. The 19-page document is based on a compilation of inputs received from United Nations (UN) member States and other stakeholders, and it outlines a vision for building a sustainable world. This piece is part of a Caritas Luxembourg position paper sent early February 2012 to the Ministry for sustainable development and infrastructure of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Ministère du Développement Durable et des Infrastructures, or MDDI), in order to inform Luxembourgish government’s position on sustainable development prior to the Rio+20 conference.