Who's “That Girl”: British, South African, and American Women as Africanist Archaeologists in Colonial Africa (1860s–1960s

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  Who's “That Girl”: British, South African, and American Women as Africanist Archaeologists in Colonial Africa (1860s–1960s
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   African Archaeological Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2001 Who’s “That Girl”: British, South African, andAmerican Women as Africanist Archaeologistsin Colonial Africa (1860s–1960s) 1 Kathryn Weedman 2 This paper reviews the accomplishments of British, South African, and Americanwomen Africanist archaeologists who worked between the 1860s and the 1960s. Despite their many significant contributions to African archaeological method and theory, especially those exposing the importance of indigenous populationsto their own cultural development, the work of these women tends to be either ap- propriated or ignored by their contemporaries and by present day archaeologists. A postcolonial feminist analysis draws on the colonial context in which Africanarchaeology developed and the continued Western domination of the discipline to provide a background for understanding how and why these women are omitted  from historiographies of African archaeology.Cette ´ etude revise les accomplissements des femmes arch´ eologues Africanistesanglaises, sudafricaines et Americaines, qui travaillaient entre les ann´ ees 1860etlesann´ ees1960.Malgr ´ eleursplusieurscontributionsd’importance `alam´ ethodeet la th´ eorie de l’arch´ eologie Africaine, en particulier celles qui exposaient l’importance `a leur propre d ´ eveloppement culturel des populations indig`enes,leurs travaux tendent  `a ˆ etre ou appropri´ es ou ignor ´ es par leurs contemporainsou par les archa´ eologues d’aujourd’hui. Une analyse f ´ eministe post-colonialeutilise le contexte colonial dans lequel l’arch´ eologie Africaine s’est d ´ evelopp´ ee,et la domination occidentale soutenue de cette discipline, `a fournir une base pour comprendre comment et pourquoi ces femmes ont  ´ et ´ e omises des historiographiesde l’arch´ eologie Africaine. KEY WORDS:  women in archaeology; history and theory of African archaeology; colonialism;feminism. 1 “That Girl” was the title of the first American television series (1966) to focus on an unmarriedworking woman as the lead character. 2 Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 1 0263-0338/01/0300-0001$19.50/0  C  2001 Plenum Publishing Corporation  2 Weedman INTRODUCTION Subsequent to colonization, African history and prehistory have been inter-preted from outside the continent, rendering them both Eurocentric and andro-centric. The rearticulation of gender and social relations not only has led to theabsence of an African voice, but also has omitted women from the role of con-veyors of the past. Beginning in the nineteenth century gender differences, likeracial differences, became the focus of scientific study (Harding, 1998, pp. 78–80;Stepan, 1986). Race and gender traits were used to explain one another in termsof the biological and social inferiority of women and people of non-western cul-tures. Also, nature was associated with “female” and culture with “male” (Lloyd,1993). Analogies drawn between nature, females, and people of other cultures,which were contrasted with knowledge, culture, and European males, resulted insexism becoming intersected with racism and imperialistic scientific agendas. Wecan clearly see this as late as 1963 in Wilcox’s The Rock Art of South Africa (1963,pp. 12, 13): The small stature of the Bushman . . . is the emergence of an hereditary tendency (alsoby mutation and selection) for certain juvenile characteristics, including shortness, to beretainedafterpuberty.ThistheoryexplainsalsothebeardlessnessoftheadultBushmen,theirlarge-headedness in proportion to body size, and many other skeletal features considered juvenile . . . . ProfessorM.R.Drennanhasarguedthispointinafascinatingpaperinwhichhealso points out that many of the juvenile traits, e.g. beardlessness and more delicate skeletalstructure, may equally be considered feminine characteristics transferred to the adult male. Furthermore, ancient European objects were recognized as evidence of pastcultures based on their similarities with the material culture of other cultures (inAfrica and Asia), who were thought to have lost their “technology and civilizedways” because they did not follow Christianity (Trigger, 1989, p. 52). The fieldsofanthropologyandarchaeology,asthestudiesofpresentandpasthumancultureswould have been profoundly androcentric and deemed unfit for women, who inthe scientific literature of the colonial period were regarded as equivalent to theinferior individuals of other cultures. The context of the development of Africanarchaeology meant that few women participated in the discourse of Africa’s past,and those that did were often ignored or heavily criticized.Little has been written about women Africanist archaeologists, although re-cently there has been a proliferation of books and articles that outline the con-tributions of women archaeologists working in Europe, Australia, the Americas,and Asia (Babcock and Parezo, 1988; Claassen, 1992, 1994a; Diaz-Andreu andSørensen, 1998a; du Cros and Smith, 1993; Gero  et al. , 1983; Irwin-Williams,1990; Nelson  et al. , 1994; Reyman, 1992a; Walde and Willows, 1991; Williams,1981). Surveys of the history of African archaeology either systematically over-look, ignore, or actively exclude women’s contributions (see for instance Andahand Folorunso, 1992; Camps, 1977; Clark, 1965a,b; Fagan, 1981; Gabel, 1985;Goodwin, 1935; Posnansky, 1982; Robertshaw, 1990b; Shaw, 1976). In addition,  Women as Africanist Archaeologists in Colonial Africa 3 the major journals concerning African archaeology publish the work of femalearchaeologists infrequently. I examined the number of male-authored, female-authored, and male and female coauthored articles in four of the major African-focused archaeological journals from their inception to 1997:  South African Archaeological Bulletin  (1945–1997),  Azania  (1966–1997),  West African Journalof Archaeology  (1971–1997), and  African Archaeological Review  (1983–1997).Male-authoredarticlesclearlypredominatethejournals(84.5,84,95.7,and72.4%respectively) with the percentage of coauthored male and female articles (6.3, 2,0.5, and 9.4% respectively) and female-authored articles (9.2, 14, 3.8, and 18.2%respectively) being steadily represented at a very low level. The 1998 conferenceof the Society of Africanist Archaeologists indicated a male–female attendanceratio of approximately 2:1 (DeCorse, personal communication, 1998). If this is anaccurate assessment of the ratio of men to women practicing African archaeology,then women’s contributions are not only seriously overlooked but they also areseverely underrepresented in published literature.Thisarticlewillexplorehowandwhywomen’sarchaeologicalworkinAfricahas been neglected by their contemporaries and in more recent historiographies.First,IwillreviewthehistoryofBritish,SouthAfrican,andAmericanwomen’sar-chaeologicalworkincolonialAfricabetweenthe1860sandthe1960stodetermine:(1) the nature of their contributions to the field; (2) whether their work mirroredthat of their contemporaries; and (3) how their work was accepted and or incor-porated into mainstream theoretical constructs. Second, I will examine the pastand present context of women archaeologists working in the West to evaluate on aglobal scale why the work of early women Africanist archaeologists continues tobeoverlooked,omitted,andignored.Ibelievethattheabsenceofthefemalevoice,resultingfromthewesternEurocentricandandrocentriccontroloftheAfricanpast,has made for a less complete account of the history of African archaeology andeven has served to mask the srcins of some of its important developments. HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF WOMEN AFRICANISTARCHAEOLOGISTS 3 Exploration and Pioneering Studies: 1860–1919 As previously stated, during the colonial era both men and women Africanistarchaeologists were predominately of European descent, so that the context of Africa’spastwaslocatedoutsidethecontinentitself,withitscolonizingoccupants(Robertshaw, 1990a). The mid nineteenth to the early twentieth century in Europeand America marked dramatic changes for women’s suffrage, access to secondaryandhighereducation,freedomfrommaritaldependency,andrighttoownproperty 3 Chronology roughly based on Willey and Sabloff, 1974 and Gowlett, 1990.  4 Weedman (Kappeli, 1993). However, this was also the period of heightened industrialism,urbanism, and colonialism.The majority of women who emigrated to Africa were elite and middle-classwivesanddaughtersandlower-classsinglewomen,wholefteithertofollowtheca-reer of their husbands (doctors, government employees, etc.) or to escape povertyand the appalling working conditions in factories and households (Swaisland,1993). There was such an imbalance of the sexes that women who arrived seek-ing employment often married before they found domestic employment. Britishsettlers also imported European women to the colonies for wives to avoid “misce-genation,” to protect their status, and to maintain the purity of the “master-race”(Miles, 1989, pp. 163–182). Women were viewed as the sex that would upholdcolonial standards and culture through reproduction and labor. Certainly the writ-ings by Karen Blixen, Beryl Markham, and Flora Shaw upheld colonial ideology(Callaway, 1987, pp. 166, 167; Hansen, 1992). However, these authors were ex-ceptionsastheybelongedtotheeliteclass.Thesocialroleofmostcolonialwomenwas determined by their husbands’ occupation and class. “Your husband is ‘themaster,’theworkishislife.Youreallyaregoingtoaman’sworldinwhichyouwillbeverymuchthelesserhalfofthisimperialpartnership . . . merelyrunningahouseispresumedtobeafull-timejob,thebe-allandend-allofyourfeminineexistence”(Hansen,1992,pp.248,249).Lettersandnovelswrittenbymiddleandlowerclasscolonial women expound on the hardships they faced, which included disease andthe lack of food, material goods, and social relations (Steveson, 1982, pp. 8, 9).Other early writings by colonial wives, missionaries, and travelers expressed asense of struggle (Bradlow, 1993). Many criticized slavery and British treatmentof indigenous peoples, and in the same breath apologized for their “unlady like”persona.ThenotionoftheincorporatedwifecapturesthedilemmaofEuropeanwomenas members of a sex considered inferior within a race that held itself to be superior(Hansen, 1992). After the 1870s, the Education Act in South Africa insisted oneducation for European boys and girls. The focus of girls’ education was religiousinstruction and basic domestic training. Education was a means to become part of theeliteratherthanameanstoelicitfreedomofthoughtandexpression.Therewerefew schools and education was often home-based (Bradlow, 1993). Furthermore,thecolonial system created a division of labor and space such that colonial womenseldomwereincontactwithindigenouspeopleofAfricaotherthantheirhouseholdservants(Hansen,1992).Lackingineducation,excludedfrompoliticalpower,andsegregatedinspaceandlaborfromindigenouspeoples,mostcolonialwomenwerenot in a position to build cultural bridges or to influence in any way the directionof colonial development.Speculation about Africa’s past by Westerners began in the mid nineteenthand early twentieth centuries at the height of western European exploration andcolonization of Africa. Imperialists dismissed African history as simple and  Women as Africanist Archaeologists in Colonial Africa 5 insignificant and only of interest to buttress the ideals of European superiority(Curtin  et al. , 1991, pp. 448–450). Africanist antiquarians believed that Euro-pean and Near-Eastern people stimulated the development of the earliest Africancivilizations including: Aksum (Bent, 1893), Great Zimbabwe (Hall, 1905; Stow,1905),Benin-Ife(Frobenius,1913),andthoseoftheNileValley(Seligman,1930).AntiquariansusedEuropeanstonetoolterminologytodescribeAfricanstonetools,and they claimed a movement of tool form and function from the north (Europe)to the south (Africa) (Dale, 1870; Gooch, 1881; Gregory, 1896; Hobley, 1925;Lubbock, 1872). By concentrating on stone tool studies across the continent, an-tiquarians promoted the European ideology of a backward and “primitive” Africathat represented a living example of Europe’s past (Trigger, 1989, p. 52). Thisperiod also marks the beginning of extensive destruction to archaeological sites of Egypt and West Africa, and the massive collection of stone tools from the surfaceof sites (Kense, 1990, p. 140).Primarily European military personnel, adventurers, doctors, geologists, andbureaucrats, who in their spare time undertook an interest in African antiquities,conducted the earliest archaeology (Robertshaw, 1990a). Mary Elizabeth Barber,AmeliaEdwards,MargaretMurray,andMariaWilmanwereamongthesepioneersof an Africanist archaeology.  Mary Elizabeth Barber (1818–1899) MaryBarber,thedaughterofaGrahamstownsettler,hadlittleopportunityfora formal education, as did most women of her time. However, her father and olderbrothers inspired her interest in the natural sciences, especially botany, entomol-ogy, and geology (Cohen, 1999). In 1845, she married a farmer-turned-diamondprospector, Frederick William Barber (Barber, 1871). Some of the earliest publi-cations concerning archaeological remains came about as the result of diamondexplorationinSouthAfrica,includingBarber’s“IntheClaims,”publishedin1872(Goodwin, 1935, p. 299). Barber was best known in her community as a writerof short stories and poems that contrasted images of civilized Europeans and un-civilized Africans (see Barber, 1871). Embedded in Barber’s story of prehistoricAfrican peoples (1872) is a description of stone implements, ostrich eggshell,beads, and pottery from an archaeological site at Colesburg Kop. The 1872 articlewas Barber’s first and last article referring to archaeological materials. However,her contacts with European naturalists led to her membership in the South AfricanPhilosophical Society, which in those days generally excluded women (Cohen,1999). In particular, she deserves note as the first woman to publish a work con-cerning African antiquities, and perhaps more importantly for being one of thefirst people in South Africa to recognize the prehistoric significance of stone tools(Cohen, 1999).
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