Institute of Archaeology


Evaluating the cultural cost of development in the new South Africa

Development thinking holds that celebrating national culture facilitates progress, but when the latter jeopardizes the former what is heritage really worth?

This project represents an unprecedented effort to understand the trade-offs between industrial development and the South African state’s promises of heritage justice since democratization. Fundamentally, it asks how states, contractors, and citizens value heritage when it becomes an obstacle to prosperity.

This project is the first to offer a long-term analysis of development impacts on archaeology while probing the real-time decision-making processes behind them. A combined qualitative and quantitative approach - including cross-disciplinary open access publication and a studentship tailored for cross-sector employability - is essential for setting a new standard in heritage studies in and about Africa, and for critiquing the impacts of global models of infrastructure investment.

Related outputs

  • King, R. 2011. Archaeological naissance at Mapungubwe. Journal of Social Archaeology 3: 311-333.
  • King, R. 2019. How do African states think about cultural property? Re-visiting management elites in southern Africa. International Journal of Cultural Property 26: 387-411.
  • King, R. 2019. Outlaws, Anxiety and Disorder in Southern Africa: Material Histories of the Maloti-Drakensberg. London: Palgrave


  • Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant