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  • Reframing the Reach of Archaeology in GhanaCommemorating James Kwesi Anquandah (1938–2017)
  • Ebony Coletu, Special Forum Editor

In honor of James Kwesi Anquandah, the first Ghanaian archaeologist at the University of Ghana-Legon (1938–2017), the contributors to this special forum present work that was influenced by his methodology and mentorship. Anquandah received his BA degree in History and a diploma in Archaeology from the University of Ghana in the early days of the program, studying under Peter Shinnie (1963/1965). In some sense, the archaeology program was waiting for him, as he was the first student to take classes. He went on to earn an MLit in Archaeology at Oxford University. After six years spent working outside the university, he returned to the University of Ghana as an assistant professor and chair of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, where he remained until his formal retirement and even long after, serving as a part-time lecturer until his passing in September 2017.1

Early in his academic career, Anquandah set out to reconstruct the story of Ghana's past—extending the temporal depth of history beyond the convenience of written records while integrating oral history into his analysis of long-buried objects. He wrote five books, edited five more, and authored more than seventy articles, with many yet to be published. His research productivity reflected his commitment to engage Ghanaians at the level of knowledge production and as audiences for published work. He was a tireless advocate for publicly accessible research and a careful listener to the stories people had to tell, whether residents living near an excavation site, [End Page 146] fellow researchers, or both. Anquandah mentored scholars in ethnomusicology, anthropology, art history, linguistics, and history, inspiring new approaches and refining questions that guide research in and about Ghana. This forum is a testament to his energetic support for interdisciplinary research and public engagement.

The essays featured here began as a set of papers honoring Anquandah's life and influence at the 2018 African Studies Association (US) Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. The forum begins with an essay by Ebony Coletu called "Descendant Epistemology." Prompted by conversations with Anquandah, she asks: How do descendants connected to the subject of research stimulate novel approaches to inquiry? Coletu, an assistant professor of African American Studies, English and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University, develops the concept of descendant epistemology in her work on Chief Sam's African Movement. A twentieth-century back-to-Africa campaign led by Sam, who was an Akyem merchant from Saltpond, brought the first generation of African American migrants to the Gold Coast in 1915. In the process of investigating the plausibility of kinship between Chief Sam and her family, who are also Sams in the Central Region, she learned of Anquandah's early research on the movement. In the late seventies Professor Anquandah interviewed witnesses of the migrants' arrival and members of Sam's family. In his recovered notes Coletu finds missing pieces suggesting Sam's motive and the fate of African American migrants who remained in the Gold Coast but were unnamed elsewhere. By following leads recorded in his interviews, she reconstructs the political and economic challenges faced by this first generation of migrants from the US, along with a kin-making proposal central to Sam's diasporic return project. She argues that Chief Sam's desire to incorporate the African diaspora from America into indigenous polities in the Gold Coast was meant to facilitate landownership and regional development, but in the end a head tax imposed by the colonial government at the beginning of World War I forced assimilation and dispersal.

Next, Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, an assistant professor of African Studies, Archaeology, Anthropology, and Critical Heritage at Hampshire College, extends the concern with descendant epistemology in archaeology with her article "'Archaeo, That Useless Subject': Excavating the Past through Autoarchaeology and Community Outreach Education." She takes up one of Anquandah's enduring themes—the question of community relevance. How can archaeological research engage multiple communities beyond the academy and on what terms? As the first archaeologist granted permission to dig at Christiansborg Castle, the seat of multiple governments, Engmann explains how she arrived at an...


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