Bureaucratic aesthetics: Report writing in the Nigérien gendarmerie

by Mirco Göpfert

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By Mirco GöpfertFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12024/abstract

Nigérien gendarmes invest considerable creative energy in their daily paperwork. I explore how the gendarmes conceive of the writing of seemingly purely bureaucratic documents, procès-verbaux, in aesthetic terms. At the same time, I ground the aesthetic appreciation of these documents in the gendarmes’ socioprofessional environment. Writing an aesthetically satisfying procès-verbal is a means of gaining respect from colleagues and superiors and of justifying and actualizing gendarmes’ self-perception as intellectuals in uniform. Bureaucratic work, I argue, is always also aesthetic work, and bureaucratic aesthetics is where aesthetic, pragmatic, and legal reasonings become one.