European colonialism and globalization in Africa in the nineteenth century ce

Authored by: Lydia Wilson Marshall

The Routledge Handbook of Archaeology and Globalization

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415841306
eBook ISBN: 9781315449005
Adobe ISBN:


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As in other world regions, colonialism and globalization in Africa have been closely linked processes. Africa, of course, was far from geographically isolated before Europeans gained territorial control of much of the continent in the late nineteenth century (Mitchell 2005). Yet, colonialism fundamentally changed Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world. Far from equal players in a world marketplace, many African regions were reduced to the production of raw materials for export in exploitative ‘vampire’ economies designed to enrich Europe at Africans’ expense (Rodney 1972: 149). The enduring political and economic effects of European colonialism on Africa are hard to overstate; some researchers have likened the continuing economic inequities Africa faces in contemporary globalization to a new kind of colonialist enterprise (Rhodes 2010: 201). In retrospect, it is easy for Europe’s conquest of Africa to appear inevitable. Yet, our interpretations are susceptible to teleological tropes if European colonialism is perceived as bound to have happened or as a unified process. Materially grounded archaeological analyses help to destabilize and disrupt such certainty by revealing colonialism in Africa as a diverse and variable process – a series of encounters, negotiations, and conflicts that fundamentally altered Africans’ sense of place in the world (Swanepoel 2013: 971), and the world’s sense of Africa’s place within it.

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