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Ikem Okoye, Entrance to 18th (or early 19th) century subterranean “refuge rooms” at Agongointo, near Agbomey (Abomey) in present-day Benin (formerly Dahomey)

Historians of Africa know all too well to distrust the archive, but does this orientation extend to built environments that form a structural, symbolic, and representational knowledge apparatus? Join Ikem Okoye, Itohan Osayimwese, Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, and Delia Duong Ba Wendel for a roundtable conversation moderated by Rafico Ruiz, CCA Associate Director, Research.

The roundtable explores how an archive is more than a physical repository of knowledge; it also reflects a value system. Histories of built environments intervene in both aspects of the archive. They provide tangible and epistemic custodianship of documentary records that confer the legitimacy of governing bodies, and also suggest alternate archival evidence and forms of authority. Building on Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture, this roundtable considers the historiographic shifts made possible through recombinant methodologies—cultivated from a consideration of aesthetic, spatial, ethnographic, oral historical, and archival analysis—in African contexts.

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