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Celebrating Merrick Posnansky

by shauna — last modified March 26, 2009 02:12 PM

By Elizabeth Klarich
Date: 3/26/09

Celebrating Merrick Posnansky

Book cover

Congratulations are in order for Merrick Posnansky, Professor Emeritus of History and Anthropology at UCLA and former Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, as his latest book will be published in spring 2009 and a conference will be held in his name this April.

On April 3-4, "Excavating the Past: Archaeological Perspectives on Black Atlantic Regional Networks," a two-day conference in honor of Posnansky, will bring together a select group of leading archaeologists and historians of the Black Atlantic, most trained by Posnansky himself. Beyond recognizing Posnansky's contribution to the archaeology of Africa and the Americas, the aim is to develop a better understanding of how archaeological sites in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States provide “grounds” for hypothesizing the presence and impact of regional symbolic systems and/or social networks. Particular emphasis will be placed on the development of Creole societies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) in relation to West-Central Africa and Europe.

This conference—hosted at the UCLA Clark Library—was organized by UCLA’s Andrew Apter, Professor of History and Anthropology, and Patrick A. Polk, Lecturer in World Arts & Cultures, and co-sponsored by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, the Mellon Transforming the Humanities Grant, and the James S. Coleman African Studies Center. For more information, including a full schedule and registration information, please visit the online calendar for the Center for Seventeenth- & Eighteenth-Century Studies at UCLA.

Also this spring, Posnansky’s memoirs are to be published in Africa and Archaeology: Empowering an Expatriate Life.

“Dealing with themes, including Family and Education, rather than providing a chronological accounting, the book discusses the meaning of expatriation as seen from the perspective of a first generation Briton, brought up in a small Jewish community in northern England who worked in three countries of Africa during the end of the colonial period and the early years of Independence before finally teaching in California. Marrying the first Uganda woman to graduate in an east African university, the book tackles problems of religion and race faced by the Posnanskys in both Africa and America at a time when marriage was rare across the divides of religion and colour. Following an initial career in museum curation that led to a continuing interest in cultural conservation, he was the first archaeologist to develop comprehensive teaching programmes in African archaeology.  From site to site he describes archaeology in Africa and his own approaches that involved immersion into the social, technological and cultural life of Africa. A highlight of the author’s career was his election as a chief in a Ghanaian village and his insights into the daily lives of the village of Hani that grew out of the memories and collapsed houses of the medieval trading town of Begho. His experiences of travel through more than 30 African countries, and research in seven, provides a fascinating glimpse of the changes, often for the better, taking place in modern Africa. The book concludes with the author’s experiences and views of American academic life where he served as both the director of UCLA’s distinguished [Cotsen] Institute of Archaeology and later the James S. Coleman African Studies Center as well as pioneering the archaeology of the African Diaspora.” 

This volume will be published by Radcliffe Press and released in the US by Palgrave/Macmillan in May 2009.For more information on the volume, click here.

The Cotsen Institute faculty, staff, students and affiliates applaud Posnansky for his recent accomplishments and lasting impact on African archaeology.

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