Community-based archaeology in Cacheu, Guinea-Bissau. Reflections on the 50th anniversary of Guinea-Bissau’s independence

Welcome to the LNUC Concurrences Seminar Series in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies!

Dr. Rui Gomes Coelho, Assistant Professor, Department of Archaeology, Durham University, is an historical archaeologist working on colonialism, decolonisation, conflict and resistance in Southern Europe and in the Atlantic World, and committed to the ongoing struggle to decolonise the discipline. He studied History and Archaeology at the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, where he obtained his BA (2005) and MA (2010), and later completed a PhD in Anthropology at Binghamton University (2017). Dr. Rui Gomes Coelho joined the Department of Archaeology as an Assistant Professor in Historical Archaeology in the summer of 2020, after having lived in Portugal, Brazil and the United States for several years. Prior to coming to Durham, he was a researcher with the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Brazil (2010), a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University (2019-20), and a Postdoctoral Associate in the Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies program at the Department of Art History, Rutgers University (2017-19). He is also affiliated with the Centre for Archaeology at the Universidade de Lisboa, where he has been a junior researcher funded by Portugal’s Foundation for Science and Technology.

Community-based archaeology in Cacheu, Guinea-Bissau. Reflections on the 50th anniversary of Guinea-Bissau’s independence

Founded around 1580 by the Portuguese, the multi-ethnic town of Cacheu developed around trading activities that connected European traders with African polities over the course of three centuries. The core of these interactions was the trade of enslaved Africans. The institution of slavery was officially abolished in 1869 but was soon replaced by a regime of forced labour that lasted until the 1960s, shortly before the start of Guinea-Bissau’s liberation war. The town became particularly important in the process of nation-building because of its historical centrality in the formation of colonial relations across the region. In this presentation I will outline this process and contextualise the creation of the Memorial of Slavery and the Slave Trade in 2012, which is both the result of Guinea-Bissau’s new political configuration and a response to the growing significance of cultural heritage in global practices of commemoration and remembrance of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. I will focus on an ongoing archaeological project that started in 2019 in collaboration with the Memorial of Slavery and discuss the significance of historical archaeology in the context of global struggles for social and environmental justice.

The seminar will be held in English.

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