Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann
Cotsen Summer Scholar
Hidden Palimpsests: Unraveling Nineteenth Century Islamic Talismans in Asante, Ghana
Hidden Palimpsests chronicles the relationship between texts, material culture, religion, and empire. The backdrop is the West African Asante state; the place is Kumasi, the capital of Asante in present-day Ghana, West Africa. Engaging artifacts and manuscripts, this project establishes the complexity of two famed “empires,” Asante and British, not only as geopolitical entities, but also as culturally created and imaginatively constructed concepts. Employing archaeological ethnography and textual analysis, nineteenth-century Islamic talismans provide a potent lens through which to investigate the relationship between colonizer and colonized from the vantage of the indigenous perspective. Placing material and social practice at the center of an historical and contemporary analysis of West African Islam, this project explores the ways in which African knowledge, writing systems, secrecy, and consumption intersect with the politics of religion, ethnicity, and diaspora formation.
Affiliation at time of award:
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University
Sponsored by UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology