Finding Bosutswe: Archeological Encounters with the Past1
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 May 2014
able to slip from “How's life”
to M'estan volviendo loca,
able to sit in a paneled office
drafting memos in smooth English,
able to order in fluent Spanish
at a Mexican restaurant,
American but hyphenated,
viewed by Anglos as perhaps exotic,
perhaps inferior, definitely different,
viewed by Mexicans as alien
(their eyes say, “You may speak
Spanish but you're not like me”)
an American to Mexicans
a Mexican to Americans
a handy token
sliding back and forth
between the fringes of both worlds
by masking the discomfort
of being pre-judged
This paper presents a micro-scale examination of archeological field praxis and its impact on archeologists, students (foreign and indigenous), and the local communities that both host and labor for them. It is a reflexive journey that attempts to bring coherence to the multiple and changing registers of meaning, contradiction, and transformation that have taken place during excavations at Bosutswe in “post-colonial” Botswana. We discuss our interactions with one another and our encounters with “the past” as we sought to validate, transform, or escape the contemporary entanglements of multilateral “pre-judgments” that have their roots deep in the soil of colonial encounter.
Pat Mora in her short poem, Two Worlds, captures some of the contradictions inherent in a post-modern, post-colonial, transnational world, where one is sometimes offered the possibility of inhabiting multiple universes, with multiple cultural and linguistic positionalities, and sometimes even trans-ethnic or transnational identities as possible choices.
- Research Article
- Copyright © African Studies Association 2008
The authors are grateful for the graciousness of the Bosutswe people who hosted us over several field seasons of work. We are also grateful to the University of Botswana archeology students who provided many fresh, new voices as they added to our discussions of the past (and present). We are indebted to several readers who provided comments and suggestions: Maria Franklin, Denné Reed, Zacharys Gundu, Carla Klehm, Polly Strong, K. Kris Hirst, Kirsten Atwood, and Jan Vansina. Finally, we acknowledge the National Science Foundation for funding the 1990, 2001, and 2002 excavations at Bosutswe.
3 For recent excavation results at Bosutswe see Denbow, James, Smith, Jeanette, Atwood, Kirsten, Ndobochani, Nonofho, and Miller, Duncan, “Excavations at Bosutswe, Botswana: Cultural Chronology, Paleo-Ecology and Economy,” Journal of Archeological Science 35(2008), 459–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Denbow, James and Miller, Duncan, “Metal Working at Bosutswe, Botswana,” Journal of African Archeology 5(2007), 3–46Google Scholar.
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11 The Tswana term is generally used to refer to the origins of peoples or nations, rather than chronologically or historically ordered events, or cultural history.
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36 Interview with Nurse Bakwena, Mashoro Clinic, August 2002.
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39 I am indebted to Dr. Zacharys Gundu for this point.
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