Globafrica: Reconnecting Africa (2014-2019)
Sub-Saharan Africa and the World prior to European Imperialism
Globafrica is a four-year research programme funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) that aims to rethink the global integration of Africa before the European Imperialism from a historical perspective.
An ambitious history and archaeology programme which aims to rethink Africa’s long term integration into the rest of the World. This multidisciplinary project intends to establish new tools to give a balanced vision of connections between Africa and the other continents before the slave trade and colonialism, in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively. This vision is as remote from the simplistic view of an isolated Africa as from the excessive reification of still fairly unknown connections. Phenomena such as dynamics of populations, demographic and epidemiological crises as well as increasing social complexity and State or cultural formations, are tackled from the angle of intercontinental exchanges. As such, the project will focus on the relations between oceanic and Saharan interfaces on the one hand, and inland political and social configurations on the other. Up to what point, from which period must we consider the African continent as being integrated into the rest of the world? Examining the intensity and actual forms of exchanges will be conducted on the basis of special detailed cases in the said project.
The project focuses on 3 research axes:
1. Analysis of the economic, political and cultural relations between the East African coast and the inland societies of Eastern and Southern Africa from the 11th to the 17th centuries (coordinated by IFAS-Recherche) ;
2. The study of the spread and impact of the bubonic plague in Sub-Saharan Africa (coordinated by IFRA-Nigeria) ;
3. The role of exogenous plants in the evolution of the societies of the Great Lakes Region, with new economic, social and cultural organisations (coordinated by IFRA-Nairobi).
A pluridisciplinary approach to create a dialogue between history and archaeology, two fields that remain rather remote from one another in the field of African studies. Ultimately, the goal is to create closer interconnections between researchers of the two fieldworks, leading to joint publications.
From a theoretical point of view, Globafrica seeks to go beyond the sole commercial pattern of exchanges through a new multidisciplinary approach, by combining a reading and detailed examination of ancient written sources, a study of existing archaeological collections (or collections under elaboration), and input from the hard sciences (paleo-botany, genetics and chemistry).
Creating more complex tools will help to grasp “connections” with new elements, such as material culture and environmental elements, or new evidence such as epidemics, all demolishing the idea of isolation. By shifting the focus on inland societies and their interactions with the continent’s interfaces, GLOBAFRICA will also make it possible to go beyond the major Euro-, Indo- and Islamo-centred narratives of external stimuli, which are all too often the elements through which African historical dynamics are explained, so as to change them for a balanced vision and periodisation specific to “African globalisation”.
To that end, workshops and fieldworks are organised, which associate researchers from African institutions, IFRA-Nairobi, IFRA-Nigeria and IFAS-Recherche, and research centres based in France, Europe or the USA. Partners institutions in Southern Africa are the University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town and Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. Elsewhere partners include, among others, Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, Laboratoire Les Afriques dans le Monde (LAM), Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAf), Cirad, Centre Jacques-Berque, William & Mary, Ife-Sungbo Archaeological Project, JOOUST University. These workshops create an opportunity for researchers from different specialties to exchange and lay the bases for future multilateral archaeological projects.