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Mobility, Interaction and Colonialism in the Americas


Admission requirements

Admission to the Master Archaeology programme, or equivalent.


The overarching goal of this course is to discuss how archaeologists reconstruct pre-colonial and early colonial mobility and exchange of peoples, materials and ideas in the Americas, contributing to the development of students’ skills and abilities, and adequate management of specialised literature.

The nature and dynamics of past mobility and exchange are among the most significant phenomena studied by archaeologists in the Americas and beyond. The overarching premise of this course holds that peoples of the past interrelated to their counterparts not only through direct face-to-face and day-to-day interaction, but also created, maintained and expanded long-distance networks of exchange of materials and ideas.
In return, the very subsistence, worldviews, and identities of the peoples were shaped by these interactions which for millennia involved other Amerindian groups and their material objects and, later, the European and African newcomers.

In this course we aim at identifying the nature, dynamics, and continuities or discontinuities of specific networks of mobility and exchange in Americas in a deep-in-time perspective. In order to achieve this goal we operationalise a ‘trans-Columbian’ integrative approach.
Critical and sensitive to socio-cultural changes, this approach allows monitoring the long-term societal trajectories while dismantling the conceptual chimera of the Historical Divide or Columbus Encounter, approaching the non-Western ontologies and disemboguing in the contemporary postcolonial thought.

Substantiating interdisciplinary case studies are drawn from the department’s ERC and NWO-funded projects in the Caribbean region and Central America.

Set-up of the course

Class 1: Introduction to the course & theoretical concepts of mobility & exchange.
Class 2: Resources and mobility & exchange.
Class 3: Ideas and mobility & exchange.
Class 4: Animals and mobility & exchange.
Class 5: Ceramics and mobility & exchange.
Class 6: European conquest of the Americas and mobility & exchange.

Specific weekly readings will be provided on BlackBoard in due time. Dates and hours for the delivery of discussion points will be established together with the students.

Course objectives

  • Providing knowledge on the overarching topic of 'mobility & exchange in pre-colonial and post-1492 archaeology' and explaining current debate on related interaction networks in the Americas, focusing on case studies from the Caribbean, Orinoquia, Amazonia and Central America;

  • Exercising research skills for in-depth interpretation of archaeological data in terms of socio-political, economic and ideational interactions between pre-colonial and early colonial communities (indigenous, African and European interactions);

  • Crafting abilities to critically assess current research and literature – the student voices one’s properly argued opinion;

  • Ability to choose a research topic, find relevant literature and orally present the selected topic with audiovisual means, as well as the ability to handle a stimulating discussion afterwards.


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

Mode of instruction

Seminars with presentations by the lecturer and class discussions afterwards. There will also be presentations by invited guest speakers (Faculty members and visiting scholars working in the Caribbean and other American regions).
This, in combination with student presentations, will be enriched by a discussion of current theoretical and methodological topics drawn from recent literature (in part, this will be expressed in weekly posted Discussion Points on BlackBoard, related to the assigned literature).
The multi-focal and multi-vocal course design will result in a more comprehensive overview of the layered concept of mobility and exchange across 1492.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7 × 2 hours of tutorial (1 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature & weekly discussion points based on the literature (2 ec);

  • Final essay of ca. 3,000-3,600 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Active participation: seminars in small, specialist groups in which equal and active participation in both preparation and discussion is important (20%);

  • Discussion points on literature for each week are to be posted on Blackboard (20%);

  • Final essay (ca. 3000-3600 words) (60%).

Differences in evaluation and grading (both partial and final) of MA and RMA students are applied in this course.

A retake is only possible for the final essay and only if all requirements, including attendance, have been met.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on BlackBoard.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact dr. A.T. (Andrzej) Antczak.


Compulsory attendance.