Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: The End in Sight? Archaeological Science, Globalisation and Unsustainability

Lecture 2: Archaeological Science and Internal African Globalisation

Shadreck Chirikure

University of Oxford

This lecture will take place in person at ISAW.

Registration is required at THIS LINK.

The Rostovtzeff Lectures are supported in part by a generous endowment fund given by Roger and Whitney Bagnall.

How humans in different places interacted with their environments and with each other connected them to lands, knowledge, skills and resources afar. People, plants, and animals moved around all the time along the network, making mobility a powerful driver of change in the past and present. Human material relations, technology, increasing populations, and changing cosmologies sometimes deepened or weakened the intensity of interconnections between localities and regions. Globalisation – the net consequence of multiscalar networks – is unsurprisingly a huge theme in humanities and social sciences as well as among politicians and policy makers. It has become so big that to a meaningful extent, it determines outcomes of elections in North America and Europe. This series of lectures brings archaeological science in conversation with the deep history of globalisation, using examples from Africa, a region previously assumed to have no history. Globalisation has been around for millennia: what is different now is that cosmologies of capitalism and hyper accumulation, have pushed the world towards unsustainable production and consumption. Does the world have answers to this unfolding crisis of unsustainability, and are the powerful beneficiaries of current day globalisation prepared to change the course of action? Is the past simply nostalgia or a useful source of solutions to this global challenge?Please check for event updates.

The African continent is a vast continent, characterised by different resource gradients. However, Africa suffered greatly from extractive activities of other continents since time immemorial. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Africa was considered a Dark Continent with no agency or initiative. During the run up to the colonisation of Africa by European powers in the late 19th century, some westerners were motivated by the civilising mission – the need to wake up the continent from the slumber of darkness. The Berlin Conference of 1884/5 divided the continent into small land parcels under different European countries. The result was that related people in neighbouring countries belonged to different countries, speaking different official languages and found themselves needing visas to visit each other. This legacy of the Berlin Conference made it seem as if the continent was not networked and instead promoted Africa’s external connections while undermining internal networks. Using the example of commodities that were circulated thousands of kilometres in southern, central, west, north and east Africa This lecture puts forward the provocation that Africa was internally globalised.

Professor Chirikure is Edward Hall Professor of Archaeological Science and Director of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art in Oxford where he holds a British Academy Global Professorship. Chirikure applies scientific methods to study ancient materials and technologies bringing together natural and social sciences and humanities. He uses the results of discoveries in the field and the laboratory to develop new understanding, conserve heritage and to tackle global challenges such as responses to colonialism. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Academy of Science of Africa. A serial award winning researcher, Chirikure is the Editor in Chief of Archaeometry, and sits on editorial boards of more than 12 journals in archaeology and related disciplines. His book Great Zimbabwe: reclaiming a confiscated past (Routledge, 2021) was well received.

Please check for event updates.

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