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History of Archaeology in Ghana  

Wazi Apoh and Samuel Amartey

The conduct of archaeological research and scholarship in Ghana (formerly Gold Coast) dates back to the 1920s. However, before the 20th century, some antiquarian practices were pursued by European scientists, missionaries, merchants, and enslavers. Expatriate archaeologists dominated archaeological research in Ghana until the 1980s when the number of local scholars started increasing. The University of Ghana remains the only institution of higher learning in Ghana where academic and scientific archaeology is practiced through the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies (DAHS), which was established in 1951. Until the 1980s, prehistoric Stone Age archaeology dominated the thematic research landscape. However, from the 1980s onward, indigenous and expatriate archaeologists steered attention to sites dating to periods after 1000 ce. This was in response to the need to build new histories for the postcolonial nation-state of Ghana. By the close of the 20th century, local researchers had taken over the scholarly landscape of archaeology in the country. The Department of Archaeology was rebranded as the DAHS to make the discipline more meaningful and economically viable for national development. Since 2010, the department has dramatically diversified its thematic and temporal foci. Aside from Iron Age studies, prehistory, historical archaeology, state formation, and Atlantic–global encounters, themes such as public archaeology, developmental archaeology, restitution, bioarchaeology, archaeobotany, museology, slavery studies, and environmental humanities are emerging as practical ways of diversifying the field of archaeology in Ghana. These emerging and innovative themes are attractive and underscore the growing number of students pursuing archaeology at the University of Ghana.

Article

Cultural Heritage in the United States  

Alicia Ebbitt McGill

A complex concept with a range of meanings and definitions, cultural heritage, often referred to simply as heritage, is characterized by the myriad ways individuals, groups, institutions, and political entities value and engage with manifestations of culture and history. Such manifestations encompass both tangible and intangible forms of the past, including cultural objects, landscapes, historic sites, memories, daily practices, and historical narratives. Heritage is tied to personal and group identity and can bring people together or be used to marginalize groups. People engage with heritage through behaviors that range from visits to culturally significant places, traditions, education programs, scholarly research, government policies, preservation, and tourism. Heritage is culturally constructed and dynamic. Critical heritage scholarship since the late 20th century highlights ways societal values, political structures, and power dynamics shape how people define, engage with, utilize, and manage cultural heritage across the globe. Though much critical heritage scholarship emphasizes that dominant Western value systems have long influenced heritage management, it also draws attention to the diverse ways humans connect with the past and the cultural practices communities and individuals employ to resist hegemonic heritage ideology and processes. Heritage scholarship is interdisciplinary, drawing on methods and theories from fields such as archeology, anthropology, history, public history, architecture, historic preservation, museum studies, and geography to examine how people interact with “the past” in the present.

Article

Diaspora Literacy, Heritage Knowledge, and Revolutionary African-Centered Pedagogy in Black Studies Curriculum Theorizing and Praxis  

Joyce E. King

The original mission of Black Studies is producing consciousness transforming knowledge, and teaching for social change in close connection with Black communities, not mimicking other disciplines in producing esoteric knowledge for establishment legitimacy in the academy. Two principal pillars for Black Studies curriculum theorizing and praxis have been: (a) knowledge making as (and for) consciousness transformation and (b) social change for (and as) Diaspora literacy knowledge making also refers to the ability to “read” various cultural signs as continuities in African-descended people’s experience. As a foundation for collective cultural agency, Heritage knowledge or group memory, refers to a repository or heritable legacy that makes a feeling of belonging, peoplehood, and communal solidarity as an outcome of education possible. Vèvè A. Clark, scholar of African and Caribbean literature, African American dance histories, and African diaspora theatre, coined the concept of Diaspora literacy in a 1984 paper analyzing allegory in Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé’s novel, Hérémakhonon, which situated an Afro-Caribbean women’s identity quest in postcolonial West Africa. Clark later revised and expanded the concept to denote a narrator’s or reader’s ability to understand and/or interpret the multilayered meanings of stories, words, and other folk sayings within any given African diaspora community. Heritage knowledge takes the unjust system out of the center and puts the Africanity of group memory, the Black perspective, which is the cultural foundation that generates people’s collective cultural agency, at the center. While Heritage knowledge is a cultural birthright of every human being, the experience of Blackness as “ontological lack” obstructs and denies African people’s humanity and agency. These conceptual tools and revolutionary African-centered pedagogy provide opportunities for consciousness transforming education for Black liberation. Such theoretical concepts and praxis in Black Studies are neglected in curriculum theorizing discourse and praxis. This is so even though curriculum is viewed as racial text and reconceptualists focus on autobiography, subjectivity, identity, transformation, and more to define curriculum as a process (currere) not an object of study. Likewise, curriculum theorizing has yet to become an identifiable subfield within the transdiscipline of Black or Africana Studies, notwithstanding decades of institutionalizing curricula in higher education since the 1980s, including a National Council of Black Studies curriculum framework. Because African-descended people’s continent of origin and history, as well as Black children, their families, and teachers have been maligned in society, the radical introduction of African content in Afrocentric curriculum and pedagogy is needed to change the quality of education and to create new understanding of the racial politics of knowledge for all students and teachers. Revolutionary African-centered pedagogy aims to undo “twisted thinking” about Africa; challenge the oppressive educational system’s vision; defend students from self-hatred, and support agency for those who have been marginalized by hegemonic concepts, themes, and curricular ideas. The aim of examining relevant theoretical, epistemological, curriculum, and pedagogical developments in Black Studies and Black education scholarship is to clarify the meaning, significance, and implications of (a) African diaspora/s as a concept in education, political discourse, and method in Black Studies; (b) what deciphering Africanity in Diaspora literacy consciousness and Heritage knowledge reveals about the importance of the Black (Studies) perspective; and (c) revolutionary African-centered pedagogy as a philosophy and method of teaching for consciousness transformation.

Article

Environmental Humanities and Italy  

Enrico Cesaretti, Roberta Biasillo, and Damiano Benvegnú

Does something like “Italian environmental humanities” exist? If so, what makes an Italian approach to this multifaceted field of inquiry so different from the more consolidated Anglo-American tradition? At least until the early 21st century, Italian academic institutions have maintained established disciplinary boundaries and have continued to produce siloed forms of knowledge. New and more flexible forms of scholarly collaboration have also not been traditionally supported at the national level, as political decisions regarding curricular updates and funding opportunities have been unable to foster interdisciplinarity and innovative approaches to knowledge production. However, an underlying current of environmental awareness and action has a strong and long-standing presence in Italy. After all, Italy is where St. Francis wrote The Canticle of Creatures, with its non-hierarchical vision of the world, which then inspired the papal encyclical Laudato si (2015). Italy is also where Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fresco The Allegory and the Effects of Good Government in the City and in the Country (1337–1339) already “pre-ecologically” reflected on the relationship between nature and culture, on the effect of political decisions on our surroundings, and on the impact of local environments on the well-being (as well as the malaise) of their inhabitants. Additionally, Italy is among the few countries in the world whose constitution lists specific laws aimed at protecting its landscapes, biodiversity, and ecosystems in addition to its cultural heritage, as stated in a recent addendum to articles 9 and 41. However, Italy also experienced an abrupt, violent process of development, modernization, and industrialization that radically transformed its urban, rural, and coastal territories after World War II. Many of its landscapes, once iconic and picturesque, have become polluted, toxic, or the outcome of contested, violent histories. And the effects of globalization are materially affecting its ecologies, meaning that Italy is also exposed to constant risks (earthquakes, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions) and presents geo-morphological features that situate it at the very center of planetary climate change (both atmospheric and sociopolitical) and migration patterns. Considering this, thinking about Italy from an environmental humanities (EH) perspective and, in turn, about the EH in the context of Italy, highlights the interconnections between the local and the global and, in the process, enriches the EH debate.

Article

The Zoque Carnivals of Northwestern Chiapas, Mexico  

Gillian E. Newell

Every year, in the days just prior to Catholic Ash Wednesday, the indigenous Zoque peoples of northwestern Chiapas, Mexico, celebrate “carnival.” In doing so, they affirm their ethnic identity, take pride in a native vision of the cosmos, and retrace their real and fictive modern and ancient family lineages. Zoque carnival is an “encounter,” or meké in Zoque language, which entails more than the word at first glance would imply. Scholars, however, have analyzed carnivals, be they state-promoted or not, as inversions, nationalistic celebrations, or representations of local, regional, and national history. They often argue that carnivals exist primarily to represent, celebrate, or be a logical result of cultural diversity. Why are the native Zoque carnivals of northwestern Chiapas different? What are these Zoque carnivals? What do they represent to the Zoque people themselves and to non-Zoque people? Why are carnival studies from an “encountering” ethnographic standpoint interesting avenues to develop and pursue?