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"Portuguese" Style and Luso-African Identity

Precolonial Senegambia, Sixteenth - Nineteenth Centuries

Peter Mark

Publication Year: 2002

In this detailed history of domestic architecture in West Africa, Peter Mark shows how building styles are closely associated with social status and ethnic identity. Mark documents the ways in which local architecture was transformed by long-distance trade and complex social and cultural interactions between local Africans, African traders from the interior, and the Portuguese explorers and traders who settled in the Senegambia region. What came to be known as "Portuguese" style symbolized the wealth and power of Luso-Africans, who identified themselves as "Portuguese" so they could be distinguished from their African neighbors. They were traders, spoke Creole, and practiced Christianity. But what did this mean? Drawing from travelers' accounts, maps, engravings, paintings, and photographs, Mark argues that both the style of "Portuguese" houses and the identity of those who lived in them were extremely fluid. "Portuguese" Style and Luso-African Identity sheds light on the dynamic relationship between identity formation, social change, and material culture in West Africa.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

To undertake the extended challenge of writing a book is, on one level, a lonely task. But on another level it is a collective undertaking. To gather historical information from archival, published, or oral sources entails a dialogue—with chroniclers long dead, with historians past and present, and with informants. Sharing one’s nascent...

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pp. 1-12

In precolonial Senegambia from the sixteenth to the late nineteenth century, the construction of social and cultural identities and the construction of houses constituted two intimately related processes. These processes led to the creation, on the one hand, of abstract and flexible social concepts and categories and, on the other hand, of physical structures....

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ONE. The Evolution of “Portuguese” Identity: Luso-Africanson the Upper Guinea Coast from the Sixteenth Century to the Early Nineteenth Century

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pp. 13-32

During the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Portugal established a trading presence along the Upper Guinea Coast, that part of the Atlantic coast extending from Senegal to Sierra Leone. Portuguese ascendancy in the African trade began with fifteenth-century seaborne explorations. By the early 1600s, however, the joint Spanish-Portuguese mon-...

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TWO. Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Architecture in the Gambia-Geba Region and the Articulation of Luso-African Ethnicity

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pp. 33-58

One result of the establishment of Portuguese and Luso-African trading communities along the northern Upper Guinea Coast in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries was the development of a distinctive style of domestic architecture. These houses were suited to the climate and they used locally available building materials. The history of Luso-African architecture raises several related questions that are...

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THREE. Reconstructing West African Architectural History: Images of Seventeenth-Century “Portuguese”-Style Houses in Brazil

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pp. 59-80

The basic form of “Portuguese”-style architecture was not unique to West Africa. In the eighteenth century, similar structures were built as far away as the Indian Ocean. An early-eighteenth-century report from the French island of Réunion reflects the extraordinary geographical range of this style, or at least of the appellation “Portuguese,” since the parameters of...

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FOUR. “The People There Are Beginning to Take on English Manners”: Mixed Manners in Seventeenth- and Early-Eighteenth-Century Gambia

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pp. 81-96

Precolonial West African trading centers were characterized by complex and often intimate relations between Africans, Europeans, and Afro-Europeans. These relations were reflected in the manners and customs of local populations. Since etiquette and manners directly concerned merchants who visited these communities, customs often figure prominently...

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FIVE. Senegambia from the Mid-Eighteenth Century to the Mid-Nineteenth Century

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pp. 97-113

Through the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, the French imposed increasingly rigid identity categories on Senegambians. This served both to deny the Luso-Africans their identity as “Portuguese” and to contest the widespread Senegambian usage of the concept of “white” as a socioeconomic label rather than as an a priori category based on skin color.As the French extended their influence south into the Casamance in the nineteenth century, political factors played...

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SIX. Casamance Architecture from 1850 to the Establishment of Colonial Administration

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pp. 114-143

On April 8, 1850, Emmanuel Bertrand-Bocandé, the French résident on the island of Carabane in the Casamance, arrived by boat at the community of Thionk-Essyl or, as he called it, “Kion,” located on the Jigouches plateau north of the Casamance River. The people of Jigouches were a subgroup of the Floups; their descendants consider themselves to belong...

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Conclusions and Observations

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pp. 144-148

The history of the structures that people build and live in constitutes an important element of the broader history of culture, and it is appropriately addressed from an historical perspective. This perspective illuminates the evolving social importance and symbolic significance of architecture with-in the communities that built the houses. But architecture is also situated...


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pp. 149-188


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pp. 189-198


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pp. 199-209

E-ISBN-13: 9780253109552
E-ISBN-10: 0253109558
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253341556

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 32 b&w photos, 2 maps, 1 index
Publication Year: 2002