21-22 Rudolph Field Research Fellow

Every day, the Sea: the infrastructure of Senegal’s harbor spaces

Project Abstract

Archaeology and historians have focused intently on global and national impacts of the transatlantic slave trade, yielding invaluable contributions on its large scale consequences. My research aims to complement this work by focusing closely on how the trade shaped the lives of the Africans and Europeans laborers who worked within the harbors of Dakar. Although historians have studied these African, Europeans, and Eurafricans through archival research, little archaeological work has been done to study how they interacted with the harbor space. Harbor spaces were neither completely African nor European, nor are they completely terrestrial or entirely submerged. The workers and inhabitants, called laptots and gourmettes by the French, knew how to maneuver between both of these binaries, and were shaped by their existence in this in-between area. Drawing on underwater remote sensing and archaeological techniques, my work aims to illuminate the maritime infrastructure of this harbor space that impacted these workers, my dissertation work will bring an archaeological focus to the liminal space of the harbor, revealing the complex interaction between ship, shore, and sailor often left unspoken in the archives.


Kelsey Rooney is a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, currently researching how the Atlantic trade – specifically the slave trade – shaped the lives of the Africans and Europeans who worked within the harbors of Dakar. She holds an M.S. in Maritime Archaeology & Conservation from Texas A&M University, and has been scuba diving since being certified in cold Massachusetts waters in 2010. Since then, she has worked on underwater projects in Cyprus, the Bahamas, and Lake Champlain,Vermont.  She is in the process of completing her NAUI Divemaster certification, diving locally in the Lake Michigan waters off Chicago.