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By Stephanie Wynne-Jones

A fabric Culture makes a speciality of gadgets in Swahili society in the course of the elaboration of an procedure that sees either humans and issues as stuck up in webs of mutual interplay. It for that reason offers either a brand new theoretical intervention in a number of the key subject matters in fabric tradition reports, together with the service provider of items and the methods they have been associated with social identities, in the course of the improvement of the suggestion of a biography of perform.

These theoretical discussions are explored throughout the archaeology of the Swahili, at the Indian Ocean coast of jap Africa. This coast used to be domestic to a chain of "stonetowns" (containing coral structure) from the 9th century advert onwards, of which Kilwa Kisiwani is the main recognized, thought of the following in neighborhood context. those stonetowns have been deeply all in favour of maritime alternate, conducted between a various, Islamic population.

This e-book means that the Swahili are a highly-significant case examine for exploration of the connection among gadgets and folks some time past, because the society was once constituted and outlined via a selected fabric atmosphere. additional, it is strongly recommended that this dating used to be subtly assorted than in different components, and especially from western types that dominate triumphing research. The case is made for an alternate type of materiality, maybe universal to the broader Indian Ocean global, with an emphasis on redistribution and flow instead of at the accumulation of wealth. The reader will for this reason achieve familiarity with a little-known and interesting tradition, in addition to appreciating the ways in which non-western examples can upload to our theoretical models.

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Extra info for A material culture : consumption and materiality on the coast of precolonial east Africa

Sample text

Indeed, public display and beneficence through the endowment of mosques may also have been part of the manœuvrings of elites to attract international and local respect (Fleisher 2004; Sutton 1993, 1997). The portable objects of the Swahili world suggest a similar investment in the material, with an emphasis on prestige goods among the imports, and a very specific use of those goods within the towns. Imported ceramics, in particular, were displayed prominently in both public and private arenas, and were built into the very fabric of the monumental architecture.

The evolution of coastal settlement is not the primary focus of the current volume, which does not, therefore, propose a new developmental chronology. Herein, instead, is an exploration of the qualities of interaction with the material world that seem to have characterized the precolonial coast. As becomes clear in Chapter 2, there are some broad categories within which these become apparent, each with a particular flavour to the overall assemblage and material setting. Early archaeologies were concerned particularly with the period of stone building, which dates from only the eleventh century onwards (­Chittick 1974, 1984; Kirkman 1964).

The unparalleled sequence at Shanga allowed Swahili architecture as an evolving material phenomenon to be studied. The setting of the fifteenth-century stone town was seen to have developed from the slow coalescence of architectural expertise, engagement with the ­Indian Ocean world, and the conversion to Islam that allowed a more cohesive Swahili identity (Horton 1991, 2004b). The key contribution of this work is often located in its championing of an African origin for the townspeople; the local roots seen in the earliest phases of the town were demonstrably those of the later Swahili, not an earlier occupation supplanted by immigrants from the Islamic world.

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