Africa is the cradle of humankind, with the origin, evolution, and dispersal of hominids understood from this continent. It was not left out in the quest for knowledge on how human beings lived in the past, where they lived, what they used and ate, as well as changes that occurred through time. The development of archaeology in Africa, as elsewhere, had two aspects to it—the volume and inclination of work done as evidenced by extensive fieldwork and publications, and the change in approach that saw a shift toward philosophical and methodological concerns. Terminology broadened as there was a shift from merely establishing evidence of occupation and the presence of material culture, to studying the subtleties and processes underlying the material culture. The human mind is complex; it generated a dynamic material culture temporally and spatially, and notwithstanding the environmental impact on past cultures, humanity also colonized landscapes. Appreciation of an interchange between humanity and the environment became necessary to sync and contextualize the development of ideas, concepts, and worldviews, and whether they emerged from within societies or were externally influenced, they were shared across time and space—necessitating multidisciplinary approaches to studying the past. To an archaeological scholar in Africa, the problem is compounded. The study of the past has always been from an observer’s point of view, resulting in the call to “decolonize archaeology”—Africans were alienated in studying the past and the tendency was to have them not see this past as their heritage. Archaeology must be relevant to Africa’s issues of environmental management, food security, and socioeconomic challenges such as youth and women’s empowerment. What can the discipline offer? Is the archaeology of Africa accessible to its population, and do we see possibilities for an intergenerational beneficiation of Africa’s past? Most importantly, Africa still has a wealth of knowledge to offer in the study of the paleoenvironment, human evolution, food production and processing, historical ecology, multidisciplinary approaches, and computer technology. Their contribution to a better understanding of the rich, complex, and dynamic African past is of utmost importance.
Nonofho Mathibidi Ndobochani
Amber Wutich, Melissa Beresford, Teresa Montoya, Lucero Radonic, and Cassandra Workman
Anthropological thinking on water security and scarcity can be traced through four scholarly approaches: political ecology of water scarcity, water insecurity, water economics, and human-water relationality. Political ecologists argue that water scarcity a sociopolitical process and not necessarily related to physical water availability. The political ecological approach is concerned with power, global-local dynamics, and how water scarcity is unevenly distributed within and across communities. Water insecurity research is concerned with how injustice and inequity shape household and individual variability in water insecurity. Inspired by biocultural research, water insecurity scholars have used systematic methods to advance theories of how water insecurity impacts mental health, food insecurity, dehydration, and other human biological outcomes. Economic anthropologists explore how economic dynamics—including formal and capitalist economies, noncapitalist and hybridized economies, reciprocity, social reproduction, and theft—shape water scarcity and insecurity. Research priorities in economic anthropology include water valuation, meanings of water, and water as an economic good. Building from Indigenous scholars’ insights, relational approaches argue that humans have reciprocal obligations to respect and care for water as a living being. Water justice, these scholars argue, requires restoring human-water relations and upholding Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. All four of these research areas—scarcity, insecurity, economics, and relationality—are producing cutting-edge research, with significant implications for research agendas in the anthropology of water security and scarcity.