Sorry I have been silent the last few weeks….I’ve been at the annual conference of the Society for Historical Archaeologists (SHA) in Sacramento, California….a good time was had by all (or most, anyway).
While at the conference I attended this year’s forum sponsored by the African Diaspora Archaeology Network…By the way, I REALLY like these forums because we get to actually have a dialog rather than giving 20 minute papers to each other with no time to talk about what each of us is doing…..
This year’s forum topic was “The Archaeology of the African Diaspora: Beyond North America and Beyond the Plantation”….Does this seem like an odd title? Does the African Diaspora already suggest a global perspective to you? Then I bet you are NOT an American historical archaeologist….
In North America, what is now increasing being termed “archaeology of the African Diaspora” began life as something called “plantation archaeology” in the 1960s and its focus was enslaved Africans and African-Americans working on lowland plantations in the American South. It expanded to “African-American archaeology” in the 1980s…I liked that the topic opened up to non-plantation settings (such as free black communities), but I was never comfortable with that name….Look at my picture, do I look like an African-American archaeologist?!? Nope, I’m whiter than Whitey Ford….
Although personal identity was not intended in the “African-American archaeology” monkier, as many of us are interested in actually diversifying our discipline to include many more scholars of color, I always felt like a poser being the “African-American Archaeology Network liaison” to the SHA….So I was happy when we recently embraced the “Archaeology of the African Diaspora” title…This name, of course, implies that we know something about the Diaspora in a holistic sense. Unfortunately it is far from true.
With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of American historical archaeologists still work in North American settings (many still work on plantation sites) and many of us have no clue about the larger Diaspora. These fora are trying to change that. Last year we we organized a forum called “Archaeology of the Black Atlantic” with panelists who worked in Caribbean, in Africa itself (east and west), folks who work on Black British heritage, and (of course) those who work in the United States….
This year Sarah Croucher of the University of Manchester expanded the forum’s theme to include the Diaspora in its global scale…it was great to get a glimpse of the diversity of projects out there–folks working in South Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, free black sites in the US and Canada, Islamic slavery in east Africa, and so on…
I think we’re moving in the right direction for a proper “Archaeology of the African Diaspora.” …I already can’t wait until next year’s forum.