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date: 06 December 2023

Communities and Archaeology in Africalocked

Communities and Archaeology in Africalocked

  • Thabo ManetsiThabo ManetsiStanford University


This article traces ongoing debates and discourse on the evolving and dynamic relation between communities and archaeology in Africa. As a departure point, the article traces the complex relationship between communities and archaeology from colonial times in Africa, and illustrates that the field of archaeology was instrumental in the making of history and heritage, enabling colonial laws and institutions that served the interests of the colonial powers. Furthermore, the imposition of the authoritarian nature of archaeology (exclusive expert-scientific field) and the state is accentuated through the glaring binary opposition of “White domination” and “Black subjugation,” as an integral part of the colonial project in Africa. The perpetuation of the legacy of outdated colonial and European heritage practices and laws are still common fixtures of the contemporary cultural landscape in postcolonial Africa. The popularity of the decolonization project in Africa has ushered in new dimensions to traditional archaeological practices such as “community archaeology” and “public archaeology,” which serve as progressive attempts to restore and increase public participation and access by ordinary members of society to archaeology and heritage management. Heritage futures illustrate ongoing configurations in heritage management, where “local community” claims, rights to access, and use of heritage are critical to environmental sustainability and the developmental agenda of most postcolonial African states. However, this is yet to be fully realized.


  • Archaeology

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