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Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa


Edited by Peter R. Schmidt

Africa, the birthplace of humanity, offers an untold wealth of information about the human past—untold because of severe limits on archaeological research there. This volume pulls the veil from previous representations of African archaeology to show that archaeologists working in Africa are still very much in the grip of patronage systems planted during the colonial era, making it difficult for local communities to see cultural benefits from the work. Moreover, innovative young African archaeologists suffer from disdain and marginalization from their senior colleagues. Yet these problems and the tensions between Euro-American practices and African sensibilities and ways of thinking and knowing create a vital opportunity to rejuvenate the practice and theory of archaeology in Africa.

Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa features some of the foremost archaeologists from Africa and the United States and presents cutting-edge proposals for how archaeology in Africa today can be made more relevant to the needs of local communities, from enhancing cultural capacity to cope with AIDS to promoting economic development and human rights claims, generating locally rooted intellectual paradigms, and preventing the degradation of heritage resources. The authors highlight research programs that offer positive alternatives to colonial-era theories and explore African quests for identities forged from within, the struggle to find meaning in African practice of archaeology, and how to make archaeology work for individual and collective well-being.

2009. 304 pp., 22 figures, 2 tables, 4 maps, references, index, 7 x 10

Contributors: Flordeliz T. Aug, Felix A. Chami, James Denbow, Faye V. Harrison, Augustin F. C. Holl, Chapurukha M. Kusimba, Roderick J. McIntosh, Morongwa Mosothwane, Karega- Munene, Ndukuyakhe Ndlovu, Nonofho Mathibidi Ndobochani, Michael Rowlands, Peter R. Schmidt, Alinah K. Segobye, Jonathan R. Walz

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“A tightly edited set of fully integrated chapters that constitute a landmark volume that gives substance, weight, and new directions to the subject of postcolonial archaeologies….This promises to be a much read, referenced, discussed, and emulated book.”
—Joanna Casey, University of South Carolina, International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. 43, no. 3

“Archaeologists in Africa and North America offer post-colonial perspectives on their profession as pursued in Africa. Among their topics are practicing post-colonial archaeology in eastern Africa from the US, eating the young in Francophone West Africa, curating post-colonial pasts in the Cameroon grassfields, South African archaeology in a post-colonial and post-apartheid era, and post-colonial encounters with the past in Botswana. The 14 papers were presented to an April 2007 symposium at the University of Florida.”
—SciTech Book News, Feb. 2010

“Through the application of postcolonial theory, the volume’s authors seek both to analyze and to transcend the colonial intellectual paradigms that, they argue, still underpin much archaeological practice on the continent….This book is a commendable contribution to the effort to both recognize and move past archaeology’s colonial heritage. The volume’s fieldwork narratives also provide poignant examples of archaeology’s potential meaning and importance for African communities.”
—Lydia Wilson Marshall, Journal of African Archaeology, vol. 8, 2010


  1. What Is Postcolonial about Archaeologies in Africa?
    Peter R. Schmidt
  2. Archaeologies of Disenchantment
    Jonathan R. Walz
  3. The Atomic Model View of Society: Application in Studies of the African Past
    Felix A. Chami
  4. Practicing Postcolonial Archaeology in Eastern Africa from the United States
    Chapurukha M. Kusimba
  5. Toward Recognition of the Right to a Cultural Past in the Twenty-First Century: An Example from East Africa
  6. Postcolonial Silencing and the State: Perspectives from Eritrea
    Peter R. Schmidt
  7. Barons, Anglo-Saxons, and Nos Ancêtres-or, Eating the Young in Francophone West Africa
    Roderick J. McIntosh
  8. Worldviews, Mind-Sets, and Trajectories in West African Archaeology
    Augustin F. C. Holl
  9. Africa on Display: Curating Postcolonial Pasts in the Cameroon Grassfields
    Michael Rowlands
  10. Between Indigene and Citizen: Locating the Politics of the Past in Postcolonial Southern Africa
    Alinah K. Segobye
  11. Decolonizing the Mind-Set: South African Archaeology in a Postcolonial, Post-Apartheid Era
    Ndukuyakhe Ndlovu
  12. Embracing Many Voices as Keepers of the Past
    Flordeliz T. Bugarin
  13. “Everybody Here Is All Mixed Up”: Postcolonial Encounters with the Past at Bosutswe, Botswana
    James Denbow, Morongwa Mosothwane, and Nonofho Mathibidi Ndobochani
  14. Reworking African(ist) Archaeology in the Postcolonial Period: A Sociocultural Anthropologist’s Perspective
    Faye V. Harrison
There are no working papers for this book at the present time.