Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TEMPEA (Temporality of permanence –material and socio-spatial practices in African urbanism)
Reporting period: 2017-05-14 to 2018-05-13
The research undertaken for this project, first at the Centre of African Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland, and then at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University focused on targeting several aspects which may advance our understanding of how space is constructed to manifest permanence (such as buildings of durable material and street networks of urban settlements) by the upkeep and contribution of a number of generations of urban dwellers, and how space may contain and cater for social temporality. For such enquiry, an interdisciplinary approach was adopted, specifically involving archaeology, architectural history, sociology and ethnography. The project centred on identifying patterns in structuring of the built environment and possible crossing points between social and spatial dynamics. The region studied in greatest depth was the East African coast, where the predominantly Islamic Swahili towns represented an ideal case study for analysis. Because the importance of trade, contacts with other regions, and Islam, all characterised these towns for much of the second millennium, comparative case-studies with similar characteristics were chosen from West Africa, specifically the towns on the edge of the Sahara that have broadly coeval histories with those on the Swahili coast.
Analyses of individual buildings and of town layouts were undertaken for sites on the Swahili coast. The study of individual buildings included comparative review of stone-built palatial complexes as well as stone houses. This brought new understanding of underlying principles shared along the Swahili coast for potential movement and visibility properties of space within the residential structures. The issue of visibility was explored for two other urban features in the built environment: pillar tombs and town walls, which included review of research on these phenomena and new considerations of their long-term role for the concepts of Swahili identity and social trust in this cosmopolitan urban society. On the settlement scale, street networks were analysed respective to assess the positioning of open (public) spaces, mosques and town gates. This study was only possible for later living towns with colonial history such as Mombasa Old Town. The outcomes were compared with similar analyses of West African trading towns, undertaken on the basis of satellite images, maps and recent surveys. The cross-regional and cross-cultural comparisons brought revelations about the important role the urban quarters played in maintaining an equilibrium of social power and how their structure created materially-constituted spatial terms for intra-town cooperation and competition such as access to trade-related spaces and opportunities.
The project was divided in three work packages, realised over the outgoing and incoming phase. The outgoing phase which took place at the Centre of African Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland. The incoming phase, realized at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden.
WP 1. Interdisciplinary research on the themes of East African/ Swahili urban studies (month 1-6)
• 7 seminars attended, with 2 presentations given
• 2 conferences: Africa Days (Pilsen, Czech Republic), “Territoriality” workshop (Basel)
• 2 popular articles (see Dissemination activities section below)
• Interview for University of Basel News
• Report on Africa Days conference for Swiss Society of African Studies
• 1 research article submitted, 2 other articles in preparation by end of this phase
WP 2. Comparative review of social themes in urbanism of West and South Africa (month 7-20)
• 13 seminars attended, with 5 presentations given
• 6 conferences: Structure of infrastructure (Liverpool; Society of Africanist Archaeologists (Toulouse); World Archaeological Congress (Kyoto); Central Europe TAG (Bratislava); Socio-environmental dynamics workshop (Kiel, Germany); Secondary cities (Basel)
• 2 peer-reviewed articles published
• 2 research articles submitted
• 1 public lecture
• Organisation of a panel at the Swiss Researching Africa Days, Bern, November 2016
WP 3. Comparative analysis and implications for Swahili archaeology (month 21-32)
• 14 seminars attended, with 2 presentations given
• 6 conferences: Identities and identifications Euroacademia conference (Florence); ECAS (Basel); European Association of Archaeologists (Maastricht); Central Europe TAG (Vienna); African Archaeology Research Day (York); CEA (Modena); Society for American Archaeology (Washington)
• 3 peer-reviewed articles published
• 2 research articles submitted, 1 submitted
• 1 public lecture
• Organisation of an international conference Biannual CRG African History Conference, University of West Bohemia, 14-16 June 2018.
The findings of the project are highly interdisciplinary and have a broader research and educational relevance for students, professionals in a range of disciplines, policy stakeholders and the general public. As such the results of the projects have been regularly presented at university seminars in Switzerland, sweden, the UK and the Czech Republic, and at public lectures and through widely accessible university newsletters oriented towards the public.