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Disciplinary documentation in Apartheid South Africa: A conceptual framework of documents, associated practices, and their effects

Marc Richard Hugh Kosciejew (Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences, University of Malta, Msida, Malta)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to argue that information is an important effect of documentation. It is in this way that documentation studies distinguishes between concepts of and practices with “information” and “document”: that is, documentation studies helps illuminate how information is created, stabilized, and materialized such that it can emerge and, in turn, how it can then be controlled, deployed, enforced, entrenched, managed, and used in many different ways, in various settings, and for diverse purposes.


This paper presents a conceptual framework on documentation, drawing upon the work of Bernd Frohmann, Michel Foucault, Bruno Latour, Hannah Arendt, @@and Ian Hacking, and applied to a case study of Apartheid South Africa.


Apartheid’s documentation helped achieve apartness at the macro and micro levels of society: on the macro level, the creation and subsequent separation of different racial and ethnic identities were drafted, adopted, and turned into law through legislative documents; on the micro level, these identities were reinforced through routines with personal documents and public signs. This documentation functioned as a documentary apparatus, providing a tangible link between individuals and their official racial and ethnic categories by creating a seamless movement of documents through various institutions; further it helped transform these racial and ethnic identities into lived facts that disciplined and controlled life.


By examining documentation, one can present a fresh and unique perspective to understanding the construction of various things, such as the construction of identities. This conceptual framework contributes to Library and Information Science (LIS) by illuminating the central role of documentation in the creation, stabilization, materialization, and emergence of information. By using Apartheid South Africa as a case study, this paper demonstrates how this framework can be applied to shed new light on different kinds of phenomena in diverse contexts; consequently, it not only contributes to and extends parts of the scholarship on documentation studies within LIS, but also presents new directions for other academic disciplines and multidisciplinary analyses and research.



The author would like to gratefully acknowledge the strong support and scholarly stewardship of Dr Bernd Frohmann. The author would also like to acknowledge and thank Dr Michael K. Buckland, Dr Grant Campbell, Dr Pam McKenzie, and Dr Amanda Grzyb for their valuable academic interest.


Kosciejew, M.R.H. (2015), "Disciplinary documentation in Apartheid South Africa: A conceptual framework of documents, associated practices, and their effects", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 71 No. 1, pp. 96-115.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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