What’s an (Archaeological) Peasant? Notes on Rural Subjectivities in Atlantic Africa

Author(s): Francois Richard

Year: 2015


This paper explores rural communities’ historical relationships to state authority in the Siin province (Senegal). I engage with classic literature to examine how the concept of ‘peasant’ might be relevant to archaeological realities in Senegal’s countryside during the Atlantic era, and how it might helpful to think about political identity among social actors chronically understudied (and under-documented) in the African past. I am interested in the term as one way to conceptualize the relations tying rural people with the various formation of power – pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial – that governed the Siin over the past 300 years. I lend special attention to the material worlds that peasants made and that mediated their experiences of centralized government. The landscapes fashioned over the centuries by collective labor and organization provide both a record of political relations in the past and a medium for their construction and negotiation. Specifically, I argue that peasant landscapes were a key vector of subjectification, through which people constructed themselves as members of communities of political feeling and crafted their relationship to the state. Historically, peasant landscapes appear to have worked less as avenues of subjugation than as conflicted spaces that frequently collided with state rule.

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Cite this Record

What’s an (Archaeological) Peasant? Notes on Rural Subjectivities in Atlantic Africa. Francois Richard. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396288)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;