Revisiting the Harris-Hatang Dialogue: A Critique of “What it (Might) Mean(s) to be an African Archivist”
AbstractI wish to react to the Harris-Hatang article published in the last issue of the ESARBICA Journal (no. 19 of 2000) entitled “Archives, Identity and Place: A Dialogue on What it ( Might ) Mean(s) to be an African Archivist”. The article by the duo raises several provocative issues which merit responses. Discussions regarding the identity and place of archives in Africa are long overdue. When I first met Harris physically in Zanzibar, I muted to him the possibility of coming up with a vibrant journal that would engage us rigorously. I had, however, had numerous contacts with his writings. Ironically Zanzibar provided us with two different images. While outside the conference building Harris saw Zanzibar as a “living archives”, I saw instead a “living museum”. A city rich in culture that for once forced me to wish that I should have been a sociologist or anthropologist. The idea of Zanzibar as an archives never crossed my mind. Harris still has to convince me about that. This kind of difference in seeing and perspective, shows how much intellectual groundwork we still have to cover. It is for this reason that I find the Harris-Hatang article stimulating. In a nutshell, Harris and Hatang debate the form and content of ESARBICA1 conferences, the Africans, Thabo Mbeki’s “African Renaissance”, issues of language and the place of orality. In a lot of ways these issues are critical to African archivists. This article attempts to address them one by one.
ESARBICA Journal Vol.20 2001: 125-131