How did African societies prior to colonialism give political form to geology? In nineteenth-century Bambuk—an ancient gold-producing province that straddles the border of modern Senegal and Mali—Maninka gold miners produced claims to tracts of mineralized land by cultivating relationships with the spirit owners of underlying geological formations. Claims to these “spirited geobodies” were materialized at shrines, erected at the base of trees and on boulders, that signaled a sacrificial exchange relationship between Maninka lineages and spirits. Combining insights from the history and archeology of West Africa with the “global” turn in science and technology studies, this article engages with the occult as a concrete historical reality that made claims on people, land, and minerals. Such an approach is not merely an epistemological intervention into the historiography of technology. Rather, it is necessary for understanding how subterranean property was produced and defended in Africa’s deeper past.


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pp. S20-S48
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