AAA2020 Virtual Conference Banner 7 - 10 Dec

Archaeology, Colonialism, and Tourism in Africa and Australia

Vera-Simone Schulz
Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

World-famous for their flora and fauna, Africa and Australia are also characterized by key cultural heritage sites. Yet as the former, the latter were for a long time interwoven in a web of imperialism, colonialism and highly racist discourses, and often continue to be overshadowed by them. This panel focuses on entanglements between archaeology, colonialism, and tourism on the two continents. It discusses the role of archaeological expeditions, the staging, communication, instrumentalization, and touristification of archaeological sites during and after colonial rule. It interrogates intersections between natural and cultural heritage, the role of infrastructure, accessibility, and the interplay between sites nearby cities and in remote locations. The panel sheds new light on the appropriation, shaping, and re-shaping of landscapes, on the role of urbanization, excavated and newly erected architecture, on the role of musealization processes, guidebooks, and on the creation of tourist itineraries between various sites. It investigates how specific visions were and are being created, thereby paying particular attention to the diverse media used to convey these visions. It analyzes what, in contrast, was and is meant to be rendered and to remain invisible, and it examines disruptions of these processes. Unpacking the epistemic and physical violence connected to many of these archaeological sites, the panel seeks to give room to multiple voices, particularly to those who have long been silenced. It discusses narratives of Indigenous people. Yet rather than calling them voices from isolation, the panel shows what is to gain from giving up a Eurocentric perspective. Following the ‘global turn’ in the humanities and social sciences, and going beyond traditional notions of centers and peripheries, the panel seeks to show the potential of studies of archaeology, colonialism, and tourism in Africa and Australia in their local and global entanglements, bringing to light interconnections in lieu of isolation.

Tourism, Heritage and Race in Colonial Libya

Brian McLaren
University of Washington

During the period of Italian colonization in Libya, a considerable effort was put into research on and rehabilitation of heritage sites. At the same time, these sites were seen as valuable resources in support of the creation of a vibrant tourist system, which was widely viewed as a key element in the colonial economy. Yet in creating unique experiences for foreign travelers, the Libyan tourist system emphasized both Roman and Berber heritage—though it did so for strikingly different reasons. While Roman sites, such as Leptis Magna and Sabratha, were seen to validate the Italian presence in Libya, Berber sites, such as Nalut and Ghadames, provided an experience of the most primitive and authentic forms of Libyan culture. What is also significant is that the Roman heritage was studied under the auspices of archaeology—which incorporated it into a well-established Western historical narrative—whereas the Berber traditions were examined through the fields of anthropology and ethnography—and as such were seen as timeless, unchanging and outside of history. This paper will examine how the Italian tourist system in Libya was based on a racially-motivated dual heritage model aimed at Western travelers—with Roman sites providing a reassuring view of the past and the Berber sites a vicarious experience of a primitive other. It will do so by looking at the presentation of these sites in contemporary guide books and tourist ephemera as well as in the infrastructure that was created to support this experience. The tourist buildings examined will include the Albergo agli Scavi in Leptis Magna (1931), by the architect Carlo Enrico Rava, and the Albergo Nalut (1935), by the architect Florestano Di Fausto. What will emerge from this discussion is the distinct manner in which heritage and race intersected in the tourist system in Libya.

Has Southern African Archaeology Moved on from its Colonial Past?

Shadreck Chirikure
University of Oxford

From its antiquarian ancestry, archaeology has now established itself as a major and fruitful field of human endeavour. However, in parts of Africa especially those that had strong settler economies such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, archaeology emerged too tightly welded to the colony and its extractive economies. There was a minimal involvement by Africans in the discipline. In fact, sites were fenced off to protect them from locals while preserving them for colonial elites and international visitors from Berlin, London or Paris. Archaeological sites became the preserve of the elites. For example, tourism at places such as Great Zimbabwe was exclusively reserved for settlers and those from the global north. This contribution engages with the colonial ancestry and historiography of archaeology and how that continues to affect tourism associated with archaeological sites in southern Africa. Using results of visitor numbers to archaeological sites and other qualitative indicators, it shows that while there is a rise in domestic African tourists, the dominant trope is to curate sites for international visitors from the former colonial metropoles. This calls for practical, and not theoretical decolonisation to ensure that archaeological outcomes are locally consumed.

Masking Colonialism, Sanitising the Indigenous: An African Perspective on Archaeo-Heritage Tourism

Catherine Namono
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Archaeo-heritage tourism sites in Africa are very often located in rural areas. The legacy of colonialism is reflected in the way archaeo-heritage tourism destinations are tailored to meet the demands of the tourists, neglecting the needs of the indigenous. This subtle, sometimes strong hold on heritage is further reflected in the manner with which museums are tailored to meet these same needs. In this respect the colonial ideology is perpetuated, and the indigenous voices are denied an identity and connection to this heritage. In this talk I draw on my experience working with : 1) the Makgabeng community in South Africa, I reflect on how indigenous residents claim their identity through meaningful tourism initiatives as opposed to cases where objects are ethnicised to reflect the people; and 2) curating and archiving collections of the Rock Art Research Institute and Origins Centre, South Africa. I will compare these experiences with similar ones in Uganda.

Tracing the Roots of Kenya’s Tourism: An Archaeological and Colonial Dimension

Ray Mutinda Ndivo
Mount Kenya University

Since Kenya’s independence in 1963, its tourism industry has grown to become one of the most significant sectors of the country’s economy. As one of the top African tourist destinations, Kenya boasts of a rich mix of tourism markets and products including the African wildlife safari, white sand beaches, MICE products, culture and heritage. Underlying such growth and market-product portfolio is a rich heritage founded on archaeology and colonial history. As observed by Crompton (quoted in Jommo 1987) tourism in Kenya was instituted during the colonial period as a “European hedonocracy”- a leisure-oriented activity for which only Europeans were equipped culturally, economically and socially to take part in, and around which they reserved for themselves the right to undertake entrepreneurial activity. Added to this colonial heritage, Kenya’s tourism industry is dotted with rich archaeological sites showcasing various stages of the development and evolution of early man. Within this heritage features pre-historic fossil heritage dating over 100 Million years ago including such important sites like Koobi Fora, a prehistoric site that has produced a great wealth of fossil evidence on the evolution of man dating over 4.2 million years; the Hyrax Hill, a neolithic excavation site dating from 1500 B.C; Pate Island, an ancient port town where evidence of human activity dating back from the 7th century has been found; and Olorgesailie, where the skull of Homo erectus was unearthed. Others include Kariandusi, Fort Jesus, and other religio-colonial period historic sites. These archaeological sites have become key cultural and heritage tourist attractions in Kenya. This paper therefore, traces the contribution of archaeology and colonial history to the evolution and development of tourism in Kenya.

Erasure of Indigenous Pasts in Great Barrier Reef Tourism

Celmara Pocock
University of Southern Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef is inscribed on the World Heritage List for its natural attributes, and tourists flock to the region every year to experience the abundance of life on the coral reefs and islands. This paper explores the multiple ways in which prior evidence of Indigenous ownership and presence has been erased through processes of colonisation. This includes original dispossession, the exploitation and misrepresentation of Indigenous labour, and the colonial creation of an imaginary tropical landscape. Tourism is often held to be an important economic opportunity for Indigenous people arising from World Heritage listing. This paper explores how the predominant presentation of the Great Barrier Reef as a natural wonder and tourist playground may limit these opportunities.

The Ethics of Visibility in Kakadu National Park: Tourism, Archaeology and Colonial Debris

Tracy Ireland
University of Canberra

Co-Author
Charlotte Feakins, Australian National University

In Australia the intertwined practices of historical archaeology and heritage conservation are often conceptualized as methods that provide access to invisible, forgotten or suppressed pasts. Drawing on Feakin’s recent research on the buffalo hide industry in the Northern Territory, we explore how tourism, archaeology and heritage conservation have made particular pasts visible, creating cultural and economic values, and imprinting particular memories and narratives. Although there has been an abundance of historical research, assessments and management plans related to Kakadu National Park, there are currently no historical heritage sites of the recent past that are promoted to the public, let alone any that exclusively represent the buffalo shooting industry. While one historic site within the Park, Munmalary Homestead, was declared a heritage place under the Northern Territory Heritage Act 2011 and is listed on the Northern Territory Heritage Register, this homestead belonged to a European man involved in the buffalo meat industry in the 1960s. With this site, current heritage management in Kakadu National perpetuates an illusion that Aboriginal people are embedded in the deep past and peripheral to the historical past and the present. These places and processes are thus examples of what Ann Laura Stoler terms ‘imperial debris’—locations where we can examine the ‘political life of imperial debris, the longevity of structures of dominance, and the uneven pace with which people can extricate themselves from the colonial order of things’ (Stoler 2008:193).

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