Towards ‘Audit Culture’ in Sierra Leone? Understanding ‘Quality Assurance’ at the University of Makeni, by David O’Kane (2014)

Audits and audit-like mechanisms have been as important in the colonial and postcolonial past of Sierra Leone as they are today, and yet their social consequences in this West African state have always been contested and unpredictable. Contemporary anthropologists of policy tend to see the present, global wave of auditing as part of a world-wide neoliberal challenge that seeks to radically reshape local cultures and social systems. Using the introduction of quality assessment methods at the University of Makeni (UNIMAK), Sierra Leone’s first private university, this paper argues that while the introduction of audit and audit-like mechanisms into new spheres of social life is socially significant, it may not have immediately predictable consequences in the post-civil war order of today’s Sierra Leone. Audit mechanisms at UNIMAK are placed in a wider context that draws on the history of audits as a technology of power in this former British colony.

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