AAA Annual Meeting Program

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Paper Information:
Type: Paper
Paper Title: RECREATING "AFRICA:" AN ARCHAEOLOGY OF IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION IN THE
Author: KENNETH BROWN (University of Houston)   
Date/Time: Sat., 3:15 PM
Co-Author(s): KENNETH BROWN (University of Houston) 
Abstract: Beginning with Hurston and Herskovits anthropologists have attempted to document and explain “Africanisms” among people of African descent within the New World. Archaeologists’ explain retentions by generally focusing on resistance, rather than the need to construct group identity. One result of this investigation is the interpretation that enslaved people in North America employed the “BaKongo Cosmogram.” This paper will present evidence for the incorporation of a variety of beliefs through the operation of three processes that operated to construct African American identity. The first two were controlled and regulated within African American communities, while the third resulted from the enforced circulation of peoples of African descent into European American dominated institutions. The need for social control mechanisms within African American communities forced the incorporation of the cosmogram into the broader context of the “West African” concept of the crossroads. Within the built environment, the primary location for features/altars related to these beliefs, often along with adaptations of Christianity, was underground, hiding them from view, and making knowledge of their existence exclusionary and becoming a mechanism for identity construction. Secondly, when peoples of African descent circulated outside of their communities, they required the use of items/symbols that would provide protection, developing symbolic expressions of their beliefs that were “hidden in plain view” through the creative use of multivocal symbols. Thirdly, other “retentions” resulted from the need for European Americans to rationalize the movement and maintenance of Africans and African Americans within the institution of enslavement.

Program Number: 4-0775
Session Title: THE ARCHITECTURE OF IDENTITY
Session Sponsor: Archaeology Division
Session Date/Time: Sat., 1:45 PM-5:30 PM
Organizer(s): KATHRYN SAMPECK (Illinois State University) 
Chair(s): ELIZABETH SCOTT  
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