Research talk with Dela Kuma: Negotiating “Nkudzedze” During Global Trade

Wednesday, January 24, 2024 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)
A small clay bowl artifact next to a black and white ruler to show what size it is

Negotiating “Nkudzedze” During Global Trade: Interpreting the Materiality of Indigenous Practices of Taste in Southeastern Ghana

The 19th and 20th centuries in West Africa were characterized by the global demand and export of botanical commodities (e.g., palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa), which were fulfilled by hinterland economies. However, hinterland people’s active participation and embodied practices are often silenced in the narratives of these encounters. I argue that local people and their indigenous embodied practices, such as local tastes, were central to forming and maintaining trade networks. In Amedeka, Southeastern Ghana, where this research is situated, local tastes and their related performances are conceptualized as “nkudzedze” – ‘pleasing to the eyes.’ This talk explores how the Amedeka conceptualization of taste directed daily life, the production and consumption of trade goods and serves as a radical act to decentralize research methodologies from the Eurowestern gaze and colonial epistemologies that continue to ‘otherize’ local and Indigenous communities.

About the guest lecturer: Dela Kuma

Dela Kuma (Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. She specializes in African Archaeology, the archaeology of ‘legitimate’ trade and the Atlantic world, and Community-sustainable archaeology. Her current book project, " Africanizing Tastes and Consumer Power during ‘Legitimate’ trade at Amedeka, Ghana (AD 1807-1900), “ delves into the broad transformations in local tastes and everyday life during the nineteenth-century trade in the hinterlands of southeastern Ghana. Dr. Kuma’s long-term project, “Historicizing Consumer Practices and Documenting Local Expressions of Tastes,” is funded by the National Geographic Society and employs ethnoarchaeological data and communitybased practices to document the variations in the indigenous practices of tastes in West Africa. Her work sheds light on how these practices have shaped socioeconomic relationships and commodity production across the Atlantic world and Asia over the last 300 years.

Dela Kuma