François G. Richard


Contact Information

Office: Haskell 211
Phone: (773) 702-7714
Website: n/a

I am a historical anthropologist and archaeologist interested in West Africa’s past. My work is staged in the Siin province of Senegal, though I have also conducted research in the United States and the Caribbean, and maintain a keen interest in the broader Atlantic world. My research investigates the political changes that have taken place in the Siin over the past 500 years, how those were manifested in social landscapes, and how they shaped the lifeworlds of peasant communities. I am interested in the long-term relationship binding rural villagers with various configurations of state power, from the Atlantic era to present times. This forms the topic of the monograph – titled “Reluctant Landscapes: Historical Anthropologies of Political Experience in Siin (Senegal), 1600-1940” – I am currently writing. The book argues that the material worlds that have organized rural life in the Siin over time have placed certain limits on projects of rule in the region. While altering in response to broader political and economic forces, Siin’s ‘reluctant landscapes’ have imparted a distinct shape to local modes of action and subjectivities, whose effects continue to be felt in the contemporary present. My other interests include 1) the history of Catholic missionaries in Senegal, especially the nature of their interaction with the French colonial state and African communities they sought to convert, 2) the grey ‘transitional’ period spanning the few centuries that preceded and followed the advent of Atlantic contacts in Africa, 3) The materiality of empire and colonial governments, 4) Rural mobility and poverty in 20th century Senegal, and 5) The historical construction of ‘Frenchness.’ My teaching reflects these various topics, and I offer regular classes on materiality, space, political life, social theory, lab analysis, and (francophone) Africa (pre-colonial, colonial and post-independence).

Selected Publications

Year Title / Publications PDF
n.d. Reluctant Landscapes: Historical Anthropologies of Political Experience in Siin (Senegal). 1600-1930. University of Chicago Press. (Forthcoming).
2017 "Excessive Economies" and Logics of Abundance: Genealogies of Wealth, Labor, and Social Power in Pre-Colonial Senegal. In Monica Smith, ed., Abundance: An Archaeological Analysis of Plenitude.
2015 The African State in Theory: Thoughts on Political Landscapes and the Limits of Rule in Senegal (and elsewhere). In Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Jeffrey Fleisher, eds., Theory in Africa, African in Theory: Locating Meaning in Archaeology.
2015 The Ruins of French imperialism: An Archaeology of Rural Dislocations in Twentieth-Century Senegal. In Mark Leone and Jocelyn Knaupf, eds., Historical Archaeologies of Capitalism.
2015 (F.G. Richard, ed.) Materializing Colonial Encounters: Archaeologies of African Experience. Contains "Africa's Colonial Pasts: Making Things Material" and "The Politics of Absence: The Longue Durée of State-Peasant Dynamics in the Siin, Senegal." Springer Press. (July 2015).
2015 (F.G. Richard and K. MacDonald, eds.) Ethnic Ambiguity and the African Past: Materiality, History, and the Shaping of Cultural Identities. Contains "From Invention to Ambiguity: The Persistence of Ethnicity in Africa" and " 'The Very Embodiment of the Black Peasant'?: Archaeology, History and the Making of the Serer of Siin (Senegal). Left Coast Press.
2014 Traveling Theory: Mark Leone, Slavery, and Archaeology's Critical Imagination. Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage. 3(1): 81-102..
2013 Hesitant Geographies of Power: Materialities of Colonial Rule in the Siin (Senegal), 1850-1960. Journal of Social Archaeology. 13(1): 54-79.
2013 Thinking Through ‘Vernacular Cosmopolitanisms’: Historical Archaeology in Senegal and the Material Contours of the African Atlantic. International Journal of Historical Archaeology. 71(1): 40-71.
2012 Atlantic Transformations and Cultural Landscapes in Senegambia: An Alternative View From the Siin. In J.C. Monroe & A. Ogundiran, eds., Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives, pp. 78-114. New York: Cambridge University Press. PDF
2012 Lost in Tradition, Found in Transition: Scales of Indigenous Histories in Siin, Senegal. In M. Oland et al., eds., Decolonizing Indigenous Histories: Exploring Prehistoric/Colonial Transitions in Archaeology, pp. 132-157. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.
2012 Materializing Poverty: Archaeological Reflections from the Postcolony. Historical Archaeology 45(3): 166-182. (Special issue on “Archaeologies of Poverty,” edited by Chris Matthews and Suzanne Spencer-Wood). PDF
2011 “In [Them] We Will Find Very Desirable Tributaries for Our Commerce”: Cash Crops, Commodities, and Subjectivities in Siin (Senegal) During the Colonial Era In S. Croucher & L. Weiss, eds., The Archaeology of Capitalism in Colonial Contexts, pp. 193-218. New York: Plenum Press. PDF
2010 Response and Responsibility (Before and After the Facts): Postcolonial Thoughts on Ethical Writing. Archaeological Dialogues 17(1): 41-53.
2010 Re-Charting Atlantic Encounters: Object Trajectories and Histories of Value in the Siin (Senegal) and Senegambia. Archaeological Dialogues 17(1): 1-27. PDF
2009 Historical and Dialectical Perspectives on the Archaeology of Complexity in the Siin-Saalum (Senegal): Back to the Future? African Archaeological Review 26(2): 75-135. PDF
2007 From Cosaan to Colony: Exploring Archaeological Landscape Formations and Socio-Political Complexity in the Siin (Senegal), A.D. 500-1900. PhD Dissertation, Syracuse University.
2003 (w/ C. DeCorse & I. Thiaw) Toward a Systematic Bead Description System: A View from the Lower Falemme, Senegal. Journal of African Archaeology 1(1):77-110.