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Space as material culture: Residential stone buildings on the precolonial Swahili coast in a comparative perspective
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6953-2636
Czech Univ Life Sci, Fac Environm Sci, Prague, Czech Republic.
2018 (English)In: South African Archaeological Bulletin, ISSN 0038-1969, E-ISSN 2224-4654, Vol. 73, no 208, p. 82-92Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper develops the notion that the structure of residential spaces has long been in a dialogue with social environments. It elaborates theoretical and methodological streams in the social sciences that focus on the interplay between society and the built environment. Space, rather than the built environment that articulates its structure, is subjected to analyses and conceptual interpretations relevant to the understanding of past constructed worlds. Although intangible and abstract, it is argued that space represents a type of material culture that could be studied through the use of the theory of affordances. We compare the layout of selected stone residences of various sizes that have been recorded in precolonial Swahili settlements at Gede, Kenya, and the Kilwa archipelago, Tanzania. To this end, we apply several methods of spatial analysis to reveal patterning in possible movements of people, and both physical and sensory access in buildings. The main goal of the paper is to derive an understanding of how these buildings helped to shape social values, and how they played a role in negotiation of multiple social interests, power, and trade relations among members of an urban society. The results highlight how material constructions like houses may channel social actions by reflecting contemporary social conventions. The argument also shows in what ways the unique nature of African urban heritage may be viewed, so that it could lend itself to cross-regional comparisons. The observations presented contribute to a broader discussion on the importance of interdisciplinary enquiry into the long history of African indigenous architecture.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
South African Archaeological Soc , 2018. Vol. 73, no 208, p. 82-92
Keywords [en]
Swahili, space syntax, Swahili house, theory of affordances, Kilwa archipelago, Gede, movement
National Category
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-396448ISI: 000491215100002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-396448DiVA, id: diva2:1367785
Available from: 2019-11-05 Created: 2019-11-05 Last updated: 2019-11-05Bibliographically approved

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Baumanova, Monika

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