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Sarah K. Croucher: "Capitalism and Cloves"

Sarah K. CroucherSarah K. Croucher is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology and a core faculty member of the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Wesleyan University. She was a Weatherhead Resident Fellow at the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, during the 2010-2011 academic year.


I am a historical archaeologist, whose primary research focus is on the archaeology of the nineteenth century. My major research projects investigate Omani colonialism in East Africa, global historical archaeology, and questions of race in New England. I have directed fieldwork projects in Zanzibar, mainland Tanzania, and the United States, and have participated in a wide range of archaeological projects in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Bahrain, Ghana, England, Scotland and Ireland.

My Ph.D (University of Manchester, 2006) was the first to explore the archaeology of 19th century clove plantations on Zanzibar, investigating the ways in which the materiality of plantation sites related to the social changes of the islands in the 19th century. It was awarded the Society for Historical Archaeology 2008 Dissertation Prize. This forms the basis of my monograph, Capitalism and Cloves: An Archaeology of Plantation Life on Nineteenth-Century Zanzibar. Capitalism and Cloves explores broad questions in the developing field of global historical archaeology through the study of Islamic plantations. Drawing together archaeological survey, excavation, oral and documentary history, I untangle the way in which colonialism and capitalism can be seen to have shared effects across cultural contexts, while also delineating more clearly the differences between this particular iteration of Islamic  capitalist production and European-run plantations. I have continued this East African research with field projects in Western Tanzania, also looking at the impact of the caravan trade and Omani colonialism on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. My future research in this area plans to look at the archaeology of urban Zanzibar in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. In a joint project with Paul Lane, I am planning to investigate the connections between East Africa and Connecticut through the nineteenth century ivory trade.

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