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A Contemporary Archaeology of State Sovereignty

Matthew Magnani
PhD Candidate, Harvard University
Date and Time: 
Monday, January 27, 2020 - 15:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)

As states expanded through the 20th century, the mobile peoples they encountered occupied territories with vast potential for natural resource extraction, taxation, and labor. 
Assimilative and sedentizing policies weakened ties to land and community to ease the extraction, produce state subjects, and enact territorial sovereignty. This presentation 
considers the long-term material dialogues of state development through two case studies: Sámi communities in Arctic Fennoscandia, and ongoing work in East Africa amongst a group of hunters known as the Digiri. Tracing shifts in material culture through the archaeological record, ethnographic museum collections, and primarily amongst contemporary producers, shows how local technologies and imported materials are repurposed to maintain social ties and attachments to natural resources. Combining future-oriented theory generated in contemporary archaeology with parallel concepts of sovereignty advanced by Indigenous scholars, this presentation demonstrates how mobile communities, in collaboration with archaeologists, may mobilize material heritage toward envisioned futures.