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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 233–263 | Cite as

Crafting, Cooking, and Constructing Histories: Women and the Politics of Everyday Life along the Falémé River (ca. AD 1000–1900)

Original Article

Abstract

Recent archaeological research in Africa has moved to illuminate the dynamic ways in which cultural identities such as ethnicity and caste have intersected with regional histories. Along these same lines, this paper focuses on the roles of women within the processes of frontier and periphery that shaped, and were shaped by, daily life within the precolonial landscape of Upper Senegal. Focusing on historical and archaeological evidence from past settlements along the Falémé River, this paper explores how the production of pottery vessels, and their use within domestic routines of food storage and preparation, may have played into political economic relations between and beyond local communities during the second millennium AD. Insofar as these craft and culinary practices lay within the gendered domain of women, they add insight into the contributions of craftswomen and female household makers to local and regional histories.

Keywords

Senegambia Gender Political economy Pottery production Pottery function 

Résumé

Les recherches archéologiques récentes en Afrique ont commencé à clarifier les façons dynamiques dans lesquels les identités culturelles, telles que l’ethnicité et de caste, relient aux histoires régionales. Dans le même esprit, cet article examine le rôle des femmes dans les processus politiques de frontière et de la périphérie qui ont façonné, et ont été façonnés par, la vie quotidienne dans le paysage précolonial du Haut-Sénégal. En se concentrant sur des preuves historiques et archéologiques des anciens villages le long de la rivière Falémé, cet article montre comment la production des poteries, et leur utilisation dans les routines domestiques d’entreposage et de préparation de la cuisine, peut constituer des relations économiques et politiques entre et au-delà des communautés locales au cours du deuxième millénaire de notre ère. Dans la mesure où ces pratiques artisanales et culinaires se situaient dans le domaine des femmes, ils ajoutent un aperçu de leurs contributions comme des artisanes et des responsables de ménages à l’histoire locale et régionale.

Notes

Acknowledgments

The archaeological data presented in this paper are the result of three seasons of fieldwork (2008, 2009, 2013) carried out in Senegal under the authority of, and with permission from, the Direction du Patrimoine Culturel in the Ministère de la Culture et du Patrimoine Historique Classé and with financial support from the Fulbright IIE, the University of Michigan, the National Science Foundation (BCS-1038733), and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers. This work would not have been possible without the wonderful support of Ibrahima Thiaw (IFAN), Hamady Bocoum (Direction du Patrimoine Culturel), and students affiliated with IFAN-UCAD, especially Mathar Ndiaye, Massal Diagne, Aimé Kantoussan, Djiby Tamba, and Massar Sarr, who assisted with the survey and artifact collection. I am also incredibly grateful to the Diallo families of Sansanding and Madina Foulbe for their generous hospitality over several months of fieldwork and introduction to contemporary cuisine in Upper Senegal. My thoughts on craft, cuisine, gender, and archaeology in West Africa have been profoundly shaped through conversations with Amanda Logan, and I would like to thank her and the participants of our 2012 SAfA session for encouraging me to focus this discussion on the roles of women in African history. This paper benefitted greatly from comments by Amanda Logan, Alice Wright, and two anonymous reviewers, but any lingering errors or omissions remain, of course, entirely my own.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

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