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Indigenous heritage in the Caribbean


Compulsory attendance


Prerequisites and restrictions

BA degree (or equivalent) in archaeology or a relevant discipline.
SAP and exchange students: admission after approval by the Graduate School of Archaeology.


Indigenous heritage is a new addition to the master program of the Archaeology of the Caribbean and Amazonia. The course is multidisciplinary, uniting archaeology and ethnography/ethnolinguistics under the theme Amerindian materialities. The archaeological part will address material engagement in the Amerindian world of the Caribbean region. We will look at theories of materiality in archaeology, in Caribbean archaeology in particular and with grounding in native Amazonian ontology. Through thematic approaches dealing with such “things” as artefacts, rituals, houses, bodies and body parts etc. we will explore the utility of such perspectives for Caribbean archaeology. The ethnographic/ethnolinguistic part will address materialities in the native cultures of the Guianas. Santos-Granero’s (2009) edited volume “The occult life of things” is a key text in this course.

Learning outcomes

  • Ability to critically assess and discuss key course concepts in anthropology and archaeology;

  • Ability to apply key theoretical concepts to a case-study or for cross-cultural comparison;

  • Presentation and written skills.

Mode of delivery

Seminar: presentations by teachers and active participation, literature criticism and discussion by students. The course will culminate in a symposium with international, specialist, invited moderators where students will present a paper.


  • Participation;

  • Paper;

  • Presentation during a symposium organised at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden. March 21st 2011. The best student paper(s) will be submitted for Caribbean Connections (a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed, academic online publication dedicated to the history of the Caribbean and its peoples).

Reading list

  • Chapters 4 and 10 from: Santos-Granero, F. Editor. 2009. The occult life of things: Native Amazonian theories of materiality and personhood. Tucson: The University of Amazonia Press. (in the UB, Archaeology reading room).

Selected (to be read and discussed in seminar) excerpts from:

  • Appadurai, A. 1986. “Introduction: Commodities and the politics of value,” in The social life of things: Commodities in cultural perspective. Edited by A. Appadurai, pp. 3-63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Gell, A. 1998. Art and agency: An anthropological theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    Latour, B. 2005. Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford Oxford University Press.

Suggested (preparatory) reading:

  • Hicks, D., and M. C. Beaudry. 2010. “Introduction. Material Culture Studies: a reactionary view,” in The Oxford handbook of material culture studies. Edited by D. Hicks and M. C. Beaudry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Olsen, B. 2003. Material culture after text: Re-membering things. Norwegian Archaeological Review 36:87-104.
    Malafouris, L. 2008. “Is it ‘me’ or is it ‘mine’?The Mycenaean sword as a body-part,” in Past bodies: Body-centered research in archaeology. Edited by D. Boric and J. E. Robb, pp. 115-123. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

  • Santos-Granero, F. 2009. “Introduction. Amerindian constructional views of the world,” in The occult life of things: Native Amazonian theories of materiality and personhood. Edited by F. Santos-Granero, pp. 1-29. Tucson: The University of Amazonia Press.

And other texts to be announced during the course.

Time schedule

Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.