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Critical African Heritages Research Workshop

Critical African Heritages is a three-year Kaplan Institute research workshop intended to build deeper connections among Northwestern and regional peers, and to think together about how we can build sustainable collaborations across fields, institutions, and international boundaries. Our goal is to provide a space for generative, open-ended conversation that transcends categories such as intangible and tangible heritage, the bifurcation of Africa and its diasporas, and disciplinary silos.


The production of African heritage has long been a deeply fraught act, influenced by geopolitics, racism, and Western intellectual frameworks that dictate whose histories, voices, and forms of knowledge are most prominent. Insular forms of knowledge production in American universities, including Northwestern, have contribute to these divides.


Amanda Logan (Anthropology) and Kathleen Bickford Berzock (Block Museum of Art and Art History)
Graduate Coordinator: Shelby Mohrs (Anthropology)

Programs and Events

ogunfolakan-10-12-22-criticala-african-heritages-400px.jpgOriki as a Vehicle to Archaeological Investigation and Historical Interpretation in Yorubaland
Professor Adisa Ogunfolakan
Director of the Natural History Museum
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
October 12, 2022
4:00 – 5:00 pm
Kresge Hall 2-351 (Kaplan Institute seminar room)

"In this talk, I will attempt to demonstrate the potential value of Oriki as a vehicle for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of historical landmarks and archaeological materials in settlement archaeological sites in Yorubaland. A case study is made of the Oriki of the Tokuloje in the Ogbomoso South Local Government area of Oyo State to identify historical and cultural landmarks of archaeological importance and to infer the possible material that could be retrieved during excavation in their abandoned settlement. In addition, the Oriki of the Lujumo family (my family house) of the ancient city of Ile-Ife was used to analyze archaeological materials retrieved from the foundations of the family house. The study of Oriki, an aspect of oral literature in archaeological research, shows that if critically applied, it may guide archaeologist on where to dig, how to interpret, and most significantly, the identification of abandoned settlement sites in Yorubaland." 

Past Events (2021-2022)

chao_critical-african-heritages-event-5_19_22-400px.jpgBehind the Wire: Documenting Kenya's Independence Movement Through Digital Heritage
May 19, 2022
10:00 - 11:30 am 
Via Zoom - Registration required

Click HERE to register.

A hands-on conversation with Chao Tayiana Maina, founder of African Digital Heritage. Co-presented by Northwestern's Program of African Studies.







cah-visioning-session-short-agenda-400px.jpgVisioning Session
November 12, 2021
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
Kresge 2-351 (Kaplan Institute)

For this inaugural session of the Critical African Heritages research workshop, we invite Northwestern faculty, graduate students, and staff engaged in heritage work writ broadly—including material, performed, sonic, visual, and written forms—to join in a Visioning Workshop. The program for the day will consist of:

9:30 - 10:00 am
Welcome and goals

10:00 am - 12:00 pm
What are the urgent concerns and debates within African heritage today?

12:00 - 2:00 pm
Moving forward: Graduate student lunch

2:00 - 4:00 pm
Moving forward: Faculty session

All interested faculty, graduate students, and staff are welcome to attend one or multiple sessions as time permits.


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