Kirsten Forsberg, Anthropology

This project aims to investigate how the decentralized societies of the Bassari Country, Senegal responded to the global forces of the Atlantic slave trade. I hope to challenge scholarship that paints a simplistic picture in which Atlantic slave trade sparked the centralization of local African kingdoms, which benefitted from slavery at the expense of rural areas that are perceived as nothing more than slave reservoirs. Ultimately, I hope to help understand how Atlantic slave trade reshaped the daily lives of those living in the small, scattered communities in the interior of West Africa. Historical research relies on local oral histories and on European documentation, sources that are not always commensurable and which often obscure African voices in favor of European ones. Archaeology is in a unique position to ground truth these historical accounts by examining the indigenous African experience through the material culture they left behind. My proposed survey seeks to understand the shifting social landscapes on the periphery of centralized African states through survey, artifact collection, and test excavations. I will track changes in settlement patterning over time in an effort to understand how victimized communities utilized their landscape defensively and reshaped social relations within and between communities.

Kirsten ForsbergKirsten Forsberg is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. She is an archaeologist with a methodological focus on bioarchaeology and the information contained in human skeletal remains. Her current research explores how decentralized societies in interior Senegal responded to the pressures of the European slave trade. She earned her BA in Archaeological Studies from Yale University and her MA through the MAPSS program at the University of Chicago, and she has been conducting archaeological research in West Africa since 2009.