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Article

Anthropocene  

Amy Johnson, Chris Hebdon, Paul Burow, Deepti Chatti, and Michael Dove

The Anthropocene is a newly proposed geological epoch that situates humans as geological agents responsible for altering Earth systems as evidenced in the geological record and directly experienced through the earth’s changing climate. There remains significant debate regarding when humans manifested change in Earth systems, as well as how human influence in planetary processes is evidenced geologically. As of 2022, “Anthropocene” has yet to be adopted as an official category of geological time by the International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geologic Sciences. Its influence has nonetheless outpaced academic debate, informing politics, policies, and opinions worldwide. In this context, anthropologists engage the Anthropocene simultaneously as a coupled biophysical and geological fact and an imaginary shaping human relations to Earth and environment. While upholding the validity of the Anthropocene as a reflection of accelerating planetary-scale environmental changes, anthropology is notable for asking critical questions about how the concept is developed and mobilized and what mainstream interpretations of the Anthropocene hide from view about life on our changing planet. Anthropology has been especially sensitive to the ontologies of time latent in the Anthropocene debates, recognizing the plural ways time is lived globally and how the concept of the Anthropocene interacts with ideas of past, present, and future. Moreover, in concordance with the standpoints of Indigenous theory and feminist and queer studies, and in conversation with critical scholarship of power and justice, anthropology has contributed to ongoing discussion about the criteria used to evaluate the Anthropocene’s beginnings, advancing discussions about the complicity of political economies of capitalism, colonialism, and plantations in the production of the Anthropocene. The engaged ethnographic approaches central to contemporary anthropology have thus deepened understanding of how the proposed Anthropocene epoch is lived and how its framing is changing human relations to environment and responsibilities for Earth’s future.

Article

Anthropology and Catholicism  

Christine Lee

Roman Catholicism has been a repeated subject of interest for anthropology, from Julian Pitt-Rivers’s early ethnography of an Andalusian Catholic community to Talal Asad’s historical anthropological work on medieval monastics. Furthermore, a number of prominent social anthropologists of the mid-20th century—e.g., E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, and Godfrey Lienhardt—were themselves Catholics, a fact which infused not just their biography but often their subsequent work. At the same time, anthropologists on the whole have rarely taken Roman Catholicism as the focus of study; instead, Roman Catholicism has often been the invisible backdrop against which the main ethnographic action takes place. In the wake of the development of the anthropology of Christianity, however, an anthropology of Catholicism has burgeoned. The modern Catholic Church, with around 1.3 billion members worldwide, is the largest institution in history. As such, scholars have often examined the way the Church maintains itself as a unified institution even while containing vast spectrums of diversity in practice, theology, and lived experience. Resulting literature has often focused on this, examining institutional continuity over both time—such as the legacy of Catholic evangelization as a key part of colonial endeavors—and space—such as the question of syncretism and the nature of Catholicism’s relationship with indigenous cultures around the world.

Article

Anthropology of the Balkans  

Ognjen Kojanić

Anthropological research in the Balkans has taken place under different labels—ethnography, ethnology, and folkloristics, to name a few. A throughline that connects the various scholarly histories in the region is the emergence of the discipline under the influence of German Romantic ideas about language and culture. Early anthropological research was entangled with the political goals of nation-building in the aftermath of projects of national liberation and oriented toward internal others, mainly peasants. After World War II, ideas from the Soviet practice of ethnography gained influence. Since the 1970s, national traditions of anthropological research have opened up to influences from the centers of anthropological knowledge production, primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. From then on, a greater number of foreign anthropologists were coming to do fieldwork in the Balkans, more scholars from the Balkans began receiving their training outside the region, and those trained in their home countries started engaging in a more dynamic exchange with foreign anthropologists. This exchange resulted in a critical and reflexive examination of the definition and status of the Balkans as a concept. Anthropological research conducted in the aftermath of the fall of socialism, in the 1990s and later, has four overarching topics. First, many researchers focused on postsocialist transformations aiming to understand the various domains in which profound cultural changes were taking place. Second, the war in the former Yugoslavia and the rise of nationalism elsewhere saw a growing interest in the topic of ethnonationalism. Third, the continual flows of outmigration from the region, the process of European integration, and more attention to the enduring legacies of empires crystallized in the research on transnational flows. Fourth, analyses of gender and kinship across the previous three topics became important in their own right. Since the turn of the millennium, anthropologists have been more likely to take up topics that have global reverberations rather than those that are more limited to the Balkans. First, anthropologists have focused on novel political and economic subjectivities that have appeared in the region in response to overlapping crises. Second, the region has provided ample anthropological theorizations of the state against the backdrop of nostalgia for the lost socialist state and changing forms of action in the political domain. Finally, anthropologists have engaged with materiality more deeply by focusing on topics such as infrastructure, environment, and the body.

Article

Archaeologists and Community Collaboration  

Krysta Ryzewski

Collaborative archaeology is a practice of partnership, stewardship, and accountability involving professional archaeologists and community stakeholders who share interests in a project’s objectives and outcomes. Community stakeholders may include familial descendants, local residents, civic officials, nonprofit organizations, tribal representatives, government agencies, commercial developers, business owners, the media, students, professionals from other fields (e.g., historic preservationists, architects, environmental scientists), and any other individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the sites that archaeologists investigate and interpret. Collaborative partnerships between archaeologists and communities take many forms, from one-time consultations to long-term initiatives that involve stakeholders in all aspects of project design, data recovery, and outcomes. In the early 21st century, collaborative archaeology projects have become increasingly oriented toward political action, ethical practice, restorative justice, community welfare, and engaging social issues that extend beyond the traditional disciplinary scope of archaeology. The sheer variety of community-involved archaeology projects and their culturally specific variations across the world are impossible to convey in a single summary. Therefore, this discussion focuses on the politically engaged and action-oriented perspectives of community archaeology projects and their processes, drawing primarily from North American examples.

Article

The Archaeology and History of Human Diseases in the Zimbabwean Past  

Pauline Chiripanhura, Ancila Katsamudanga, and Justen Manasa

Throughout history, communicable diseases have impacted humanity. If present experiences are any indication, diseases must have had significant impact on transforming the economic and social organization of past communities. Some aspects of what is regarded as normal modern human behavior must have emanated from responses to diseases, especially epidemics and pandemics. Unfortunately, few studies have been conducted in this area of archaeological investigations to shed more light on the influence of these on past communities. This is more so in African countries such as Zimbabwe where the history of pandemics stretches only as far as the beginning of colonialism, less than 200 years ago. Although the earliest world epidemic was recorded during the 5th century, it was not until 1918 that Zimbabwe recorded the first incidence of a worldwide epidemic. There is little knowledge on how precolonial communities were affected by global pandemics such as Black Death, the bubonic plague, and similar occurrences. It has to be noted that global pandemics became more threatening as society made the shift to agrarian life around 10,000 years ago. This has led many scholars to regard the adoption of agriculture as the worst mistake in the history of the human race as they argue that the creation of more closely connected communities gave rise to infectious diseases and presented these diseases with the chance to grow into epidemics. Diseases such as influenza, smallpox, leprosy, malaria, and tuberculosis are among those that have thrived since this shift. With its long human history, Africa is well positioned to shed light on the occurrence of global pandemics as well as their distinct impact on communities living in diverse social, economic, and natural environments. As such, it is important to explore the study of diseases, especially epidemics and global pandemics, to augment the worldwide knowledge generated from other continents. This knowledge should also be juxtaposed with what is already known about changing social, economic, and political developments to see the potential impacts that these pandemics had on the human past. The history of migration should be viewed as a potential history of the spread of new diseases. For all the known pandemics, the South African coast has served as the major corridor of transmission of disease pandemics into Zimbabwe. However, archaeologically, it is known that migrations were mostly over land from the northern and eastern regions. It is interesting to delve into how the spread of diseases could have differed when the movements of people over land, rather than coastal ports, are the nodes. Since there are few documentary sources to help in the comprehension of past outbreaks in the precolonial period, archaeological evidence becomes key. Without doubt, human skeletons represent the most ubiquitous source of information on ancient diseases. Zimbabwe has remains that stretch from the Stone Age to historical times. Paleopathology is an underdeveloped discipline in southern Africa, but with increased awareness of the possibilities of the presence of various diseases in prehistory, it is expected to grow.

Article

The Archaeology of Hinduism  

Namita Sanjay Sugandhi

The term “Hindu” derives from Persian expressions coined in the 4th century bce to define the traditions found east of the Indus River. Thus, a common start to the archaeological examination of Hinduism are the prehistoric cults found in various regions of the Indian subcontinent. Some elements associated with traditions from the urban Indus civilization of the 3rd millennium bce have been connected to later Hindu iconography and ideals, but these links remain tenuous. By the mid-2nd millennium bce, the introduction of new Vedic ideologies, so called because the earliest references are found in the texts of the Vedas, ushered in significant transformations in ritual and spiritual life, but left little material trace. However, migrating groups associated with these traditions have been traced genetically and linguistically to the Western Steppes of Central Asia. Over the next two thousand years, Vedic traditions became more elaborate and heterogeneous, merging with popular customs, and generating heterodox schools of thought that challenged both the spiritual and social order of Brahmanical Hinduism, which also took form during this time. The early centuries of the Common Era were witness to additional transformations and adaptations, and it is after this period that various forms of temple architecture, sculpture, and the epigraphic record become a wider body of evidence for study in both South and Southeast Asia. During the 1st millennium ce, Hinduism took on more familiar contours, partly driven by the rise in extant religious, philosophical, and secular literature. Alongside this textual record, a wealth of architectural and art historical sources became available; studies of these sources increasingly look to continuities from earlier eras that are documented archaeologically. Nevertheless, much of this body of knowledge derives from institutional and elite contexts; household-level details remain slim and much contemporary interpretation of past daily worship continues to be inferred from the ethnographic record. During the modern period, Hinduism came to acquire its formal definition as a world religion, and with this came the attempt to delineate Hindu identity for first colonial, and then national ends, often in tandem with the Orientalist archaeologies of the early and mid-20th century. Though the definition of modern Hinduism may be more clearly circumscribed, it is certainly no less varied. Modernity continues to impact the understanding of Hinduism in many ways. Technologies such as DNA analysis have been applied to the study of early societies, with the goal of understanding ancient migrations and the composition of different regional populations. While our understanding of past human movement has increased considerably because of these studies, genetics do not serve as a proxy of culture. DNA evidence can provide some details about the movement and interaction of different populations in the past, but categories like race, language, and culture are as incommensurable as they are artificial, and they should be understood as such. Instead of a match for the textual or genetic record, the archaeology of Hinduism should be considered the material study of a broad amalgam of dynamic beliefs and practices that date back into the eras of earliest prehistory and continue to transform and evolve around the world.

Article

The Archaeology of Missionization in Colonial Senegambia  

Johanna A. Pacyga

The archaeology of missionization in colonial Senegambia is a nascent area of study within the broader historical archaeology of colonialism that explores the historical processes of evangelization and conversion as they were experienced by Senegambian converts. Senegambia was a prominent target of Catholic and Protestant missionaries throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Archaeology is a uniquely situated discipline for expanding our understanding of missionization beyond the historical and anthropological perspectives because—through its focus on material remains—it uncovers the experience of proselytization and conversion from the ground up by illuminating the daily lives of mission residents who are often underrepresented in archival sources: African converts themselves, including women and children. The archaeology of missionization exposes lines of evidence that have left behind a robust footprint of religious and institutional architecture, landscape elements, and material culture accessible through archaeological survey and excavation. Furthermore, missionization was deeply rooted in the materiality of everyday life, so it is not simply because mission sites exist that they should be excavated, but because missionaries widely considered material practices to be integral to the broader conversion process. The archaeology of missionization interrogates the relationship between the theory and practice of evangelization during the period of colonization, and reveals the lived experience of religious conversion among Senegambian mission residents, both neophytes and those who did not embrace Christianity.

Article

Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology  

Douglas D. Scott

Battlefield or conflict archaeology is a specialized field within archaeology that focuses on the study and archaeological investigation of conflict and conflict-related sites. It combines archaeological techniques with historical research to investigate and interpret the material remains of past conflicts. The aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the events, tactics, and human experiences associated with warfare and conflict throughout history. By studying conflict sites, archaeologists aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of the anthropology of warfare, including the social, cultural, and technological aspects of conflict. Their work contributes to our knowledge of military history, human experiences in times of conflict, and the preservation of related heritage sites.

Article

Beyond Formal-Informal Dichotomies  

Alan Smart and Martijn Koster

Debates on informality have been mainly structured along dichotomous formal-informal, regular-irregular, or legal-illegal lines, where government and the law equate to formality. Ethnographic studies, however, have often demonstrated that formality and informality coexist. An increasing number of scholars have emphasized that the formal and the informal are always and everywhere intertwined. Domains that seem very formal contain informal practices and vice versa. We critically discuss five prevalent binary approaches to formality-informality: economic-non-economic, legal-illegal, institutionalized-informal politics, temporal dichotomies, and the division between form and “formlessness.” Countering these approaches, we outline anthropological insights on how formal and informal are better seen not as a dualism (binaries) but as a duality (a spectrum) of modes of interaction and performance, where each is entangled with, and inseparable from, the other and invariably invokes the other mode when one is performed.

Article

Contract Archeology in South Africa  

Ndukuyakhe Ndlovu

The roots of contract archeology were laid even before the development of a legislative framework that prescribed the processes to be followed. Contract archeology was being seen by the museums and universities as the best avenue to the subsidizing of archeological research. The increased research funding of the 1960s and 1970s was on the decline in the 1980s. Universities, therefore, were at a disadvantage and needed to explore other avenues of funding. Legislative changes over the years, which made it mandatory for developers to fund impact assessments to mitigate potential damage of valuable heritage resources from their proposed activities, have led to a significant proliferation of private archeological companies. These have been established to provide developers with the expertise they need to satisfy these legal requirements. The approach used in South Africa is that the developer must pay to assess the nature of the likely impact of their proposed activity. Government entities are then tasked with the responsibility of reviewing studies undertaken by specialists subcontracted by developers. The subdiscipline of archeology has grown significantly in South Africa, specifically enabled by legislative changes over the years requiring that predevelopment assessments of heritage sites be undertaken prior to approvals being made. However, archeology has continued to be defined as racially unrepresentative of the South African demography. In addition, the management of heritage resources through the use of contract archeology has been characterized by a variety of administrative challenges.

Article

Copper and Copper Alloys at the Time of the Kingdoms of Ghana and Mali  

Laurence Garenne-Marot

Copper was a highly prized material in sub-Saharan Africa at the time of the Sahelian kingdoms of Ancient Ghana and Mali. In certain regions, especially those where gold was mined, it was exchanged for gold at rates that would be considered unfair by present-day standards. Together with salt, it was one of the main commodities of the trans-Saharan trade that contributed to the enrichment of these sub-Saharan kingdoms. Salt was the most highly prized product in sub-Saharan Africa. However, it did not leave any direct archaeological trace, whereas copper remains in the archaeological records. Copper may be combined with other metals to form alloys with diverse mechanical and aesthetic properties. Determining the absence or presence or the ubiquity of some of these alloys in time and space and mapping this data has been done for other contexts. Thanks to a significant set of meaningful compositional analyses of archaeological copper-based objects and remains, such undertaking may be done for West African sites dating between the 8th and the 14th centuries ce. The archaeometric data check must take into account additional data, such as the nature of the site (e.g., habitat or sealed context), the dating, the nature of the copper-based material, and the quality of the metal (analytical data), as well as precise references about the source documentation. When the cartographic material is combined with archaeological evidence relating to the places where the metal was processed and consumed, or with written sources referring to historical events or changes in the trade routes, a picture can be drawn of the use, transformation, and circulation of copper and copper alloys over the course of six centuries Studies of what happened with regard to copper and copper alloys contribute to the construction of a finer history of the West African Sahel at the time of the kingdoms of Ghana and Mali. This research considers fluctuation in the value of copper and copper alloys, the increased exploitation of local copper deposits, the importance of secondary production loci, such as the workshops of Tegdaoust where local processing (or dilution!) of brass imported from the north took place, the wealth of copper-based objects in certain sites testifying to a modification of the trans-Saharan routes, and the development of new trading ports.

Article

Early States and Complex Societies in Eastern and Southern Africa  

Chapurukha M. Kusimba

How and in what ways did socially complex societies emerge on the East African coast and southern Africa? Scholarship has shown that elite investment in interregional trade and in extractive technologies, monopolization of wealth-creating resources, and warfare may have played a key role in the emergence of early states. To what extent was elite and non-elite engagement in local, regional, and transcontinental economic networks crucial to development of social complexity in eastern and southern Africa? Extensive research on the eastern coast of Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) and southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa) has yielded adequate data to enable a discussion on the trajectories of the evolution of social complexity and the state. So far, three crucial factors: (a) trade, (b) investment in extractive technologies, and (c) elite monopolization of wealth-creating resources coalesced to propel the region toward greater interaction and complexity. Major transformations in the form and increase of household size, clear differences in wealth and status, and settlement hierarchies occurred toward the end of the first millennium ad. Regional scholarship posits that elite control of internal and external trade infrastructure, restricted access to arable land and accumulation of surplus, manipulation of religious ideology, and exploitation of ecological crises were among the major factors that contributed to the rise of the state. Could these factors have also favored investment and use of organized violence as a means to gain access to and monopolize access to information and wealth-creating resources? Scholarship in the 21st century favors the notion that opportunistic use of ideological and ritual power enabled a small elite initially composed of elders, ritual specialists, and technical specialists to control the regional political economy and information flows. The timing of these transformations was continent-wide and date to the last three centuries of the first millennium ad. By all measures, the evidence points to wealth accumulation through trade, tribute, and investment in agrarianism, pastoralism, and mining.

Article

Frontiers  

Aditi Saraf

The term “frontier” is generally taken to mean an area separating two countries, or a territorial limit beyond which lies wilderness. But frontier is also used symbolically to refer to the limit of knowledge and understanding of a particular area, as in “frontiers of science” or in the idea of outer space as the “final frontier.” A certain elasticity therefore inheres in the term. Scholarship on frontiers generally examines geographical and cultural “peripheries”—zones that are viewed both as political barriers and sites of contact and exchange. However, the frontier as an empirical object as well as a scholarly heuristic is intertwined with long and often violent histories of colonialism, imperialism, and resistance. Anthropological concepts of the frontier are developed in relation to neighboring terms such as border, boundary, and line and methodologies for its empirical investigation in relation to other social science disciplines like history, international relations, geography, and gender studies. Drawing on a multidisciplinary perspective, ethnographic research aims to destabilize conventional notions of the frontier as the limit of settlement or as a space of statelessness, anarchy, or disorder in order to attend to the diverse cultural and political institutions that produce distinctive ideas of sovereignty, mobility, commerce, and community in such spaces.

Article

Heritage Management in West Africa  

Caleb Folorunso

The definition of heritage in West Africa must adopt a wider perspective of incorporating tangible and intangible heritage as recognized and defined by UNESCO. Generally, the West African region does not feature monumental heritage as in Europe and the Americas. The few monumental heritage properties belong to the historic period and are located in the Sahel zone (Mali in particular), while the coastal regions possess monumental heritage properties that were essentially relics of the period of European contact and colonialism (Benin Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal). Heritage resources in West Africa are therefore essentially discrete and nondiscrete prehistoric and historic archaeological sites which include rock shelters, relics of ancient settlements, mounds, earthworks, industrial relics such as furnaces and surface finds, isolated historic buildings and spaces, and tangible (traditional architecture and artifacts) and intangible (language, poetry, songs, dances, festivals, beliefs, and value systems) ethnographic resources. Some studies in the 2010s have included heritage resources of all archival materials such as recorded audiovisuals of events and entertainments of the colonial and early postcolonial periods. Heritage management in the West African region has been problematic due to various factors that could be both historical and attitudinal, which include colonialism, intrusion of foreign religions and ideologies, economic and social conditions, insufficient and noneffective legal and policy frameworks for protection and conservation of heritage resources, and a general lack of awareness and interest in matters of heritage by the populace. In spite of these factors, some efforts have been made toward managing heritage in ways that can be interrogated. Government efforts at promoting heritage are more evident in the areas of cultural festivals, dance, and music with the establishment of cultural troupes at various political and administrative levels, thus creating the impression that heritage is limited to intangible cultural resources. Museums are few and far in between, priceless artifacts are still looted and illegally exported to foreign museums to join those looted during the colonial era, and facilities are limited and not standard, while the staff is poorly trained and unmotivated. In the face of expanding infrastructural developments and urbanization, the most appropriate management strategy and practice would be conservation through recording archaeological sites and historic properties.

Article

History, Anthropology, and Rethinking Modern Disciplines  

Saurabh Dube

Pervasive presumptions in the human sciences project anthropology and history as taken-for-granted divisions of knowledge, whose relationship is then tracked as being vexed but constructive. At the same time, it is more useful today to rethink history and anthropology as disciplines of modernity – in their formation, elaboration, and transformation. To begin with, going back to the Enlightenment and Romanticism, historical and anthropological knowledge each appeared as mutually if variously shaped by overarching distinctions between the “primitive/native” and the “civilized/modern.” It followed that the wide-ranging dynamic of empire and nation, race and reason, and analytical and hermeneutical orientations underlay the emergence of anthropology and history as institutionalized enquiries in the second half of the nineteenth century. Further, across much of the twentieth century and through its wider upheavals, it was by attempting uneasily to break with these genealogies yet never fully even escaping their impress that history and anthropology staked their claims as modern disciplines. This entailed especially their discrete expressions of time and space, culture and change, tradition and modernity. Finally, the mutual makeovers of history and anthropology since the 1970s have thought through the formidable conceits of both these disciplines while reconsidering questions of theory and method, object and subject, and the archive and the field. Based upon salient intersections with a range of critical understandings – for instance, postfoundational and postcolonial perspectives, considerations of gender and sexuality, and subaltern and decolonial frames – the newer emphases have imaginatively articulated issues of historical consciousness and marginal communities, colony and nation, empire and modernity, race and slavery, alterity and identity, indigeneity and heritage, and the state and the secular. At the same time, considering that such disciplinary changes are themselves embedded within wider shifts in social worlds, the haunting terms of the antinomies between the “savage/native” and the “civilized/modern” unsurprisingly find newer expressions within ever emergent hierarchies of otherness.

Article

The Internal African Slave Trade as History and Representation  

Marcos Leitão de Almeida

The internal African slave trade is a key topic to understand the political, cultural, and economic history of Africa. As a colonial category, the concept emerged throughout the 19th century as European imperial powers, spearheaded by European antislavery movements, constructed a discourse of abolition associated with the expansion of commerce, Christianity, and civilization. In the process, European imperial agents increasingly challenged the political sovereignty of African states and laid the ground for the discourse of racial inferiority of Africans. At the same time, the term also refers, then as now, to the expansion of the internal slave trade within the continent after 1850. Slavers in different parts of the continent continued to move people across the landscape to provide human labor, this time not for slave ships along the Atlantic coast but for the development of economic undertakings within the continent itself, such as clove plantations on Africa´s east coast, palm oil in West Africa, and the onset of coffee and sugar plantations in Angola. As a colonial and historical category, the internal slave trade is crucial to understanding 19th-century Africa. Moreover, with discoveries in archaeology and historical linguistics, the internal slave trade has been shown to have a much older history, connected with the making of polities in Northeast Africa such as Egypt and Meroë, the trade in slaves and gold in West Africa from the time of the Garamantes to the expansion of Mali, and the settlement of Bantu-speaking villages in Central Africa in the last millennium bce. In this way, the internal African slave trade was not one but many; internal slave trades were, rather, locally generated and emerged in different periods and places in response to distinct contexts and motivations. Therefore, the 19th-century internal African slave trade, with its spin-off stereotyped representation of a continent without history, needs to be supplemented by an understanding of the multiple slave trades in Africa’s early past, as evidenced by historical linguistics and archaeology.

Article

Language and Colonial Rule  

David Tavárez

The study, classification, and standardization of languages by scholars, missionaries, and administrators played a vital and often protean role in the implementation and enforcement of colonial domination. Ongoing scholarship surveys the merging of linguistic investigations and linguistic knowledge with colonial hegemony in the Americas and East Asia between the late 15th century and the end of World War II, with a sustained focus on Mesoamerica and the Andes. European colonial expansion from the 15th century onward resulted in the emergence of multiple philological and lexicographic projects that were intimately tied to a hegemonic refashioning of the social order through the establishment of extractive economic regimes, colonial administrative systems, and religious institutions that sought to Christianize and discipline colonial subjects. The conversion, education, and surveillance of these subjects were intricately tied to colonial governance objectives, priests, missionaries, and colonial officials who worked in tandem with Indigenous scholars and assistants who described and documented Indigenous languages. As a result of colonial policies, new vernaculars emerged, and regional languages underwent severe language shift or extinction. Even after the demise of colonial regimes, the linguistic policies embraced by nation-states relied on highly racialized, neocolonial approaches to linguistic and ethnic difference.

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Literature and Anthropology  

Andrew Brandel

Literature is often understood to be one of anthropology’s most recurrent and provocative companions in thought. The relationship between the two has taken a number of different and variously interrelated forms. Perhaps the most familiar of these is the theorization of the anthropologist’s status as a writer; this work tends to take its cue from certain strands of postmodernism and invokes literary techniques as tools through which to address concerns around representation and the evocation of lived experience. A second important, if often overlooked, area of research involves the study of concrete literary practices including reading, writing, performing, sharing, and listening, whether by means of ethnographic fieldwork or anthropological modes of textual analysis. Finally, there are the myriad relationships that anthropologists have maintained with particular literary figures or texts, which have proven essential to their thinking and to their lives.

Article

Malthusian Thought  

Glenn Davis Stone

Robert Malthus’s 1798 Population has proven to be one of the most influential publications in history. Challenging ideas popular among Enlightenment writers, including the perfectibility of human institutions, he argued that since population could grow exponentially and agriculture only linearly, there was an inherent and irresolvable imbalance in nature that unavoidably led to population being checked by mortality among the poor. The policy implication was that aid to the hungry would only create more misery. The most famous “proof” of the theory came in Ireland in the 1840s, and Malthus’s policy recommendations were followed. However, Ireland was setting food export records during the famine, and agriculture has grown much more rapidly than population ever since. The basic tenets of Malthus’s have been debunked, but it continues to be influential, especially in the form of neo-Malthusianism, largely because of the interests it serves.

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Managing Heritage Sites and the Politics of Cultural Continuity in Mesoamerica  

Fernando Armstrong-Fumero

The dynamic between indigenous descendant communities, archaeologists, and other heritage professionals in Mexico and Central America embodies a distinct regional history of relations between native peoples and the state. In contrast to the United States and other regions, where indigenous polities have a history of legal sovereignty, the legacy of Spanish colonialism has created few parallel avenues for native Mesoamericans. Linguistic, cosmological, and social continuities between living and ancient indigenous populations have long been an emphasis of Mesoamericanist anthropology. Nevertheless, laws for the management of heritage in those countries often marginalize descendant communities from the use and stewardship of the material traces left behind by their ancestors. The ethical dimensions of this dynamic are further complicated by the fact that many activities that are criminalized by existing heritage laws are, in fact, consistent with long-standing traditions of landscape use and material recycling in these societies. Lacking the sovereignty principle that shapes interactions between indigenous communities and archaeologists in the United States, a more inclusive practice of heritage in Mesoamerica involves new kinds of pragmatic dialogue and accommodation.