The Inscribed Word vs. the Spoken Word in African History and Archaeology

Author(s): Peter Schmidt

Year: 2013


Pierre Nora got it wrong when he drew a distinction between inscribed history and social memory. By making this unfortunate dichotomy he unwittingly amplified a long standing separation between the written word and the spoken word in history making. The writings of F. Lwamgira in NW Tanzania provide a poignant study from which insights emerge about the speciousness of such distinctions. Lwamgira's writings take on an authoritative quality by becoming materially inscribed representations of Haya history, amplifying European conventions and overlooking that these texts were originally oral presentations. He is not rendering an historical analysis of events, rather he is transcribing oral texts with all the conventions of story-telling and embellishments of performance valued by keepers of oral traditions. Published in 1949, these texts reveal the underlying differences between the West and the Rest in how history making occurs in African settings, critical understandings for archaeologists attracted to their use.

Cite this Record

The Inscribed Word vs. the Spoken Word in African History and Archaeology. Peter Schmidt. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428418)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 350