This session aims to encourage engagement with anthropological studies of colonialism that have shown great effectiveness in conceptualizing the long-term dynamics of cultural contact at the local level. Roman studies have tended to neglect anthropologies of colonialism, which have a long and productive history of engaging with social theory and other critical approaches to such things as the constitution of colonial landscapes, the recontextualization of ‘foreign’ material culture, and the effects of hybridization processes on local identities, practices and ideologies.
Social processes unfolded, and were experienced, differentially within and among communities, across regions and over time, as certain social spheres reacted to local transitions and as historical actors experimented with diverse strategies in negotiating new realities shaped by colonialism. Uncovering the specific historicity of past communities in transition will help our understanding of discrepant experience and the movement of people, goods and ideas through local and inter-regional networks in the Roman Empire. The goal of using anthropologically informed local approaches to Roman colonialism is not to replace the ‘Romanization’ meta-narrative with that of a plurality of ‘Roman colonialisms’ but to allow the exploration of the possibilities of human action under colonial conditions by focusing on the contexts of local interactions, the materials by which such interaction was made possible, and by relating these to macro-scale processes and developments.
Anthropologies of colonialism can furthermore serve as a valuable source of comparative information to inform our work. Reversely, with one of the largest archaeological and historical datasets at their disposal, roman archaeologists can make valuable contributions to anthropological studies of colonial encounters commonly concerned with the more recent past of European colonialism. Lastly, an ‘anthropology of archaeology’ could explore how Roman colonialism has and continues to shape archaeological perceptions, practices and interpretations in other colonial contexts.