Assistant Professor of African Studies
Too often 'Western' historical narratives consider Africans and African Diasporans as 'People Without History'. Such a notion refers to peoples who cultures do not possess or have few formally written histories. This class employs archaeological evidence in order to investigate histories of imperialism, colonialism, genocide, slavery, resistance and black nationalism, dismantling the colonial library by exploring local histories once marginalized, silenced and erased. This course focuses on the major themes, ideas and research entailed in the historical archaeology of the Africana experience, on both sides of the Atlantic, in Africa and in the Americas. Throughout this course we will adopt an interpretive framework that draws upon the use of objects, texts and oral narratives, thereby illustrating the historical and cultural continuities between Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora. We will begin by examining archaeological evidence from West Africa, exploring the impact of the Atlantic economy on African daily social life, for example shaping settlement patterns, architecture, sociopolitical organization and sociocultural practices. We will then focus on material from North America and the Caribbean, exploring the ways in which enslaved Africans in the diaspora interpreted their conditions in the Americas, addressing topics such as social, racial, ethnic, religious and gendered identities, power and inequality, resistance and maroonage.
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. We will examine the pivotal role of African objects in Africa, as well as Europe and the United States, and the projects of colonialism, imperialism, apartheid and nationalism in light of collecting practices, museums, heritage, development and human rights. We will explore the ways in which African material culture has been categorized, interpreted and displayed. We will pay close attention to the politics and practical aspects of contemporary African heritage practice by engaging with some of the associated controversies and ethical responsibilities. In this class, we will ask: How did African objects come to arrive in nineteenth century European museums? What is the relationship between African material culture and the colonial imagination? And, how has this relationship between objects and the "invention of Africa" changed over time? Who "owns" African art today? How do we work with African collections given international codes and conventions, yet also respect local, communal and indigenous rights? This tutorial course involves participation in the upcoming exhibition, 'Selections from the Collection of Charles Derby' at the University Museum of Contemporary Art: Fine Arts Center, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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. This seminar adopts a global approach to heritage. We will focus on the major themes, ideas and debates shaping the theoretical and methodological frameworks for studying heritage. We will learn the ways in which colonialism and nationalism impact heritage in the past. We will also critically examine contemporary possibilities, problems and challenges presented by tourism, development, international law and illicit trafficking on heritage. 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.
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 seeks to introduce 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. We will examine the historical, political, social and cultural contexts in which African countries, communities, and individuals articulate and sell notions of the "exotic", "tradition", "authenticity" and "indigeneity". Engaging with ethnographies we will examine the various forms of tourism: safaris, volunteerism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, roots tourism or pilgrimage, romance and sex tourism. Examining relations between 'hosts' and 'guests' - brokers, tour operators, guides, 'experts', tourists and local populations - we will focus on the possibilities, problems and challenges presented by tourism in North, South, East and West Africa. Paying close attention to the ways in which the 'tourist gaze' produces and reproduces notions of race, class, gender, sexuality and desire, students will be asked to reflect upon and theorize their own tourist experiences. We will also discuss internal tourism, namely the reasons why when Africans become tourists, they rarely visit their own country.
What is the connection between the consumption of colonial postcards in Senegal, cosmetic products in Zimbabwe, African-American bric-a-brac during segregation, second-hand clothing in Zambia, Coca-Cola in Trinidad, and African art in New York? This course examines two central themes for material culture studies: commodities and consumption. Consumption is a process that enables people to reproduce themselves as social beings, as well as the maintenance and reproduction of social relationships, giving commodities 'value'. This course adopts an historical approach, tracing the evolution of the study of commodities and consumption in Africa and the African Diaspora. How does object consumption take on new meanings in different historical, political, social and economic contexts? How does the consumption of objects document ties spanning the seemingly remote into the global community? What is the relationship between consumption, commodities and identity? Adopting approaches from the disciplines of history, archaeology, anthropology and material culture studies, we explore the consumption of commodities as a politicized process addressing issues such as colonialism, globalization, citizenship, race, ethnicity, class, gender, power and inequality.
This course explores Islam, the slave trade and slavery in Africa. The slave trade and slavery is an often-unacknowledged tradition in the 'Islamic world'. We will begin by examining Qur'anic and Islamic jurisprudence regarding slavery. Then, against the backdrop of slavery in early Islamic empires, we will proceed to slavery in East, West and Southern Africa, and the African Diaspora. Including readings from archaeology, history and anthropology, the course will explore the ways in which local interpretations of Islam influenced understandings of slavery by situating them within specific historical, political, socio-cultural and geographic locales. Examining the connections between Islam and slavery, and more specifically, labor, rebellion and manumission, we will also explore the role of the enslaved as rulers, soldiers and concubines. In addition, we will enrich our understandings of Islam and contemporary slavery in Africa.