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'A nest for thieves and vagrants': The interior world of the nineteenth-century Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains

Start: Nov 16, 2017 06:00 PM

Location: UCL Institute of Advance Studies Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins building

'A nest for thieves and vagrants': The interior world of the nineteenth-century Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains

Rachel King (UCL Institute of Archaeology) will give the next seminar in the African Peoples and Pasts series at UCL on 16 November.

Rachel's presentation is entitled 'A nest for thieves and vagrants': The interior world of the nineteenth-century Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains and all are welcome to attend.

Abstract

In the nineteenth century, southern Africa's Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains were a challenging political and economic space: colonial infrastructure struggled to gain a foothold in these rugged borderlands; the mountains were home to figures dubbed brigands and raiders living on the edges of colonial society; minor chiefs retained a measure of autonomy away from powerful African sovereigns like Shaka kaSenzangakhona and Moshoeshoe I. These mountains were also a challenging intellectual space, because within them these socio-political 'outsiders' could become 'insiders', forming communities, settlements, and networks that remained largely beyond the control of African and European centralised authority. This paper draws on archival, rock art, and 'dirt' archaeological evidence to propose a view of the nineteenth-century Maloti-Drakensberg as an 'interior world': a node of illicit, indigenous power and economy that could set the terms of the colonial encounter. I consider the contributions that archaeology can make to the study of criminality, unruliness, and resistance in the African past. Finally, I illustrate how 'interior worlds' offer a useful complement to borderlands and frontiers when conceptualising conflict and cooperation in both the recent past and the longue durée.

Any enquiries about the event may be directed to Hannah Page.