Archaeology and coloniality: The mirror in the ground

Talk with Nick Shepherd, Århus University.

What does it mean to ‘decolonize’ a discipline like archaeology? How is coloniality manifested and what forms does it take in disciplinary guiding ideas and practices in archaeology? More interestingly, how is it manifested at the level of the episteme (that is, in the manner in which knowledge is constructed, what counts as knowledge, and who gets to decide)? Working with the visual and written text archive of AJH ‘John’ Goodwin (1900-1959), one of the first professional archaeologists in Africa, I will open up these questions via a series of vignettes. I will also consider questions of archaeological aesthetics, the kinds of writing that we are permitted to do (and not do) as archaeologists, and the role of the archive as a source for hidden histories.

In a surprise ending, I will tell the story of the fireball, launched from a drought-induced wildfire on Table Mountain, that destroyed the African Studies Library of the University of Cape Town and with it the majority of the Goodwin archive in April 2021 – a catastrophic convergence between coloniality and climate change.

All welcome, no registration required. However, please notify Margaréta Pintér if you would like to be included in the refreshments order by 10 May latest.