Back to Events
Eye on Africa: Amanda Logan, "Excavating Histories of African Food Security"
Thursday, 05 Sep 2019
12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Room 201, International Center
Event Details:


Amanda Logan (PhD Michigan 2012) is an Africanist archaeologist with interests in food studies, environmental history, and historical anthropology, and since 2013 has served as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University. She has published in numerous archaeology and anthropology journals, including American Anthropologist, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, and African Archaeological Review. Logan's work has been recognized by the SAA Dissertation Award and the Gordon Willey Prize from the Archaeology Division of the AAA. Her forthcoming book, The Scarcity Slot: Excavating Histories of African Food Security (University of California Press), is the first monograph to investigate food security in the deep past. Covering the period 1400-2009, The Scarcity Slot investigates how food security changed during the height of the trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic trades, under Asante and British rules, and the most severe drought in the last millennium, and connects these histories to the present day. Her current project, Archaeologies of Food Sovereignty in Africa, compares archaeological data from sites across the continent to investigate food sovereignty in different environmental, political, and colonial contexts.

The African continent is home to the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the world, and in recent years, these numbers have been getting worse, reversing decades of improvement. As food activist Francis Lappé remarked decades ago, food insecurity is a not a 'given,' but the result of ongoing historical processes. In this talk, I use archaeology to investigate the long-term processes responsible for some of today's food security challenges, as well as strategies used in the past to avert major food crises. Drawing on a case study in Banda, west-central Ghana, I show that people maintained high food security during the worst drought on record in the last millennium, lasting from 1400-1650, in part through diverse economic strategies. I argue that seasonal chronic food insecurity increased in severity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in association with changing labor dynamics and market economies further institutionalized under British colonial rule. This long-term view challenges notions of the African continent as a forever food scarce place, and suggests that the past can act as an inspiration for food secure futures.