Assistant Professor of African Studies
Engmann teaches courses on historical and contemporary forms of the African experience, such as African Islam, critical heritage, material culture, museums, Islamic archaeology, slave trade, slavery, and colonial photography. A scholar who applies a multiple lines of evidence approach (objects, texts, oral narratives, and ethnography), she enjoys working with students interested in engaging with a variety of documentary sources, and combining different theoretical and methodological approaches in the humanities and social sciences, in search of novel revisionist historical and contemporary approaches to the study of Africa.
As a scholar/practitioner, Engmann has two research projects in Ghana. The first project, Hidden Palimpsests: Unraveling Nineteenth Century Islamic Talismans in Asante chronicles the relationship between objects, texts, religion, and empire. She examines some of the oldest and most extensive sources in existence from museum, private, community, and royal collections.
Her second project, Slavers in the Family: The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Century Gold Coast, is a study of Christiansborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, former seventeenth century European trading post, Danish and British colonial seat of government administration, and Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana. She is the first scholar granted access to the site. It is the first excavation of the Castle. This community archaeology, ethnography, documentary film, and museum project is grounded in its commitment to the political impacts of research on direct descendants and the public. As a Ghanaian descendant of Carl Gustav Engmann (1752-1757), a Danish Governor at Christiansborg Castle and Board Director of the Danish Slave Trade Organization (1766-1769), she has coined the term "autoarchaeology." This project contributes to the Ghana Government’s aims to convert the site into a museum. Further information can be found in at http://christiansborgarchaeologicalheritageproject.org (English, Ga, and Twi).
Engmann’s writings and reviews have been published in African Art, African Archaeological Review, Review of Middle East Studies, African Studies Review, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, African Studies Quarterly, Society for Clay Pipe Research, and the UNESCO Annual Report. She has also given a number of lectures and workshops in Africa, United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Engmann has been the recipient of a number of generous national and international grants, awards and fellowships for research, community outreach, and education, including Columbia University, Stanford University, Brown University, Martha Joukowsky Foundation, Whiting Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts, and the Ghana Government.
Africa is known as the continent of orality. Notions of African antiquity as quintessentially pre-literate, non-literate or illiterate remain decidedly intact in the Western imaginary. What is more, the widely held perception Africa's lack of written traditions as known in other societies is seen as evidence of Africa's lack of history, and in turn civilization. Yet, documenting African writing and graphic systems is not difficult: Egyptian hieroglyphics, Egyptian and Ethiopian Coptic texts, Vai script in Liberia, Bamum script in Cameroon, Nsibidi script in Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as Arabic and Ajami scripts exist throughout the continent. This introductory survey course explores African writing and graphic systems as materialized traces of knowledge central to the ways in which Africans construct and document ideas about themselves, others and the world around them, in the past and present. In this class we will ask: What is the nature of knowledge? How is knowledge archived? What is the relationship of knowledge to writing and graphic systems?
Too often 'Western' historical narratives consider Africans and African Diasporans as 'People Without History'. Such a notion also refers to people who possess few or no formally written histories. Employing historical archaeology, this class examines the material traces individuals and communities in the past left behind as important, alternative historical resources for interrogating the European colonial library, and re-writing the histories of slavery and the slave trade. Excavating the "hidden histories" of Africans and African diasporans, free and enslaved, our aim is to insert the voices of those marginalized, silenced and erased. We will participate in field trips to museums and heritage sites in the area. We will also engage in informal discussions with archaeologists and heritage specialists working in Atlantic Africa and the diaspora, as well as those working with African collections in the United States and Europe.
This course is an introduction to African art and material culture. In this class, we will focus on the major themes, ideas and debates that have shaped and continue to shape the theoretical and methodological frameworks for studying African objects. In this class, our goal is to engage with the possibilities, problems and challenges presented by archaeological, anthropological, material culture and art historical approaches to African art and material culture.
Lions and Maasai, elephants and Bushmen, camels and Tuareg - Africa is seen as the continent of colorful cultures, picturesque people and thatched huts. This course introduces students to some of the key themes and debates in the anthropology of tourism, exploring the commodification of culture and nature in Africa as objects with marketable value. In this class, we ask: What is a tourist? How do hosts feel about tourists? Why do people travel for leisure to Africa? Does tourism help or hinder African development? What does the study of travel and tourism in Africa tell us about the world in which we live? Engaging with ethnographies, our approach will explore the various forms of tourism: safaris, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, dark tourism, slum tourism, roots tourism or pilgrimage, volunteerism and study abroad, romance and sex tourism, medical tourism and touring poverty. Examining relations between 'hosts' and 'guests' - tour operators, guides, 'experts', tourists and local populations - we will focus on the possibilities, problems and challenges presented by tourism in North, South, Central, East and West Africa. We will investigate the historical, political, economic, social and cultural contexts in which African countries, communities, and individuals articulate and sell notions of the 'Other', 'exotic', 'tradition', 'authenticity' and 'indigeneity', as well as the ways the 'tourist gaze' produces and reproduces notions of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality and desire. We will also consider regional and domestic tourism, including the reasons why African tourists rarely visit their own country, and the 'post-tourist', namely, the idea physical travel can be replaced by the virtual. Students will be asked to reflect upon and theorize their own tourist experiences.
This course is an introduction to the politics of heritage. Heritage sites, monuments and museums are frequently sites of controversy, as various groups with different and often conflicting experiences contest interpretations of the past. We will focus on the major themes, ideas and debates shaping the theoretical and methodological frameworks for studying cultural heritage. We will learn the ways in which colonialism, nationalism, apartheid, conflict and independence and impact cultural heritage. We will also critically examine contemporary possibilities, problems and challenges presented by cultural tourism, development, international law, war and illicit trafficking. Through a series of case studies we will examine the historical, political, social and cultural contexts in which nations, communities and individuals assert their rights through heritage.