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Periodical article Periodical article
Title:Beyond the Coastalscapes: Preindustrial Social and Political Networks in East Africa
Authors:Kusimba, C.M.
Kusimba, S.B.
Dussubieux, L.
Periodical:African Archaeological Review
Geographic term:Kenya
Discipline:History - Archaeology
Subject:Network - preindustrial
Abstract:The archaeological community worldwide now readily recognizes the role and significance of interregional interaction in the development and sustenance of urban societies (e.g., Marcus and Sabloff 2008; Sinclair et al. 2010; Trigger 2003). Over the past two decades, we have carried out a systematic, problem-oriented research program on the Kenyan coast and its hinterland in an effort to understand the ecological and cultural milieu that enabled towns and city-states to develop along the East African coast beginning in the late first millennium CE. Archaeological research complemented with historical sources of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries shows that different scales of analysis can be used to understand the long-term history of the development of urbanism along this Swahili coast: local, regional, and trans-continental frames of reference each show that Swahili communities were part of numerous networks of interactions. An emerging picture of preindustrial urbanism shows that local, regional, and trans-continental interaction spheres tied coastal towns to the hinterland and to wider Indian Ocean commercial and social networks. Not all of the theorized links between the coastal towns and their local and regional trade and interaction partners will be visible archaeologically. We address the still poorly known elements of preindustrial regional networks of alliance and interaction spheres between urban and rural polities and argue that an integrative approach is necessary to understand the context of coastal urban society. (Journal Abstract).