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Please join us for the Global Lunchbox, a weekly forum hosted by Northwestern’s Center for International and Area Studies featuring conversations with scholars in the social sciences and humanities about their research on a range of global issues.
Our guest this week will be Mark Hauser, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at Northwestern, whose latest book is Mapping Water in Dominica: Enslavement and Environment under Colonialism (2021).
About the book
Dominica, a place once described as “Nature’s Island,” was rich in biodiversity and seemingly abundant water, but in the 18th century a brief, failed attempt by colonial administrators to replace cultivation of varied plant species with sugarcane caused widespread ecological and social disruption. Illustrating how deeply intertwined plantation slavery was with the environmental devastation it caused, Mapping Water in Dominica situates the social lives of 18th-century enslaved laborers in the natural history of two Dominican enclaves.
Mark Hauser draws on archaeological and archival history from Dominica to reconstruct the changing ways that enslaved people interacted with water and exposes crucial pieces of Dominica’s colonial history that have been omitted from official documents. The archaeological record—which preserves traces of slave households, waterways, boiling houses, mills, and vessels for storing water—reveals changes in political authority and in how social relations were mediated through the environment.
Plantation monoculture, which depended on both slavery and an abundant supply of water, worked through the environment to create predicaments around scarcity, mobility, and belonging whose resolution was a matter of life and death. In following the vestiges of these struggles, this investigation documents a valuable example of an environmental challenge centered around insufficient water.
An open access edition of the book is available — to download a (free) PDF, go to:
About the speaker
Mark Hauser is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at Northwestern University. He is an historical archaeologist who specializes in materiality, slavery and inequality. These key themes intersect in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries Atlantic and Indian Oceans and form a foundation on his research on the African Diaspora and Colonial Contexts. As an archaeologist who studies how people adapt to landscapes of inequality and contribute to those landscapes in material ways, he employs ethnohistorical, archaeological, and archaeometric approaches. He is the author of An Archaeology of Black Markets: Local Ceramics and Economies in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica (2008) and Mapping Water in Dominica: Enslavement and Environment under Colonialism (2021).
Mark also has research interests in 18th-century Southern India and 19th-century North America. His new research examines how the Indian and Atlantic Oceans were connected in the early modern period through the lens of Danish colonialism. This work builds on his early archaeological research in the Danish West Indies. With the aid of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Mark has begun a regional landscape survey in the former Danish colonial enclave of Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu, India.