Center of Cultural Anthropology
The Centre for Cultural Anthropology (CAC) of the ULB is specialised in the fields of religious anthropology, environmental anthropology, historical anthropology, cultural technology, and the study of material cultures. Its fieldworks are mainly situated in Africa, Asia and South America, both in rural and urban settings.
BANTURIVERS - At a Crossroads of Bantu Expansions: Present and Past Riverside Communities in the Congo Basin, from an Integrated Linguistic, Anthropological and Archaeological Perspective
The “Bantu Expansion”, a research theme within the precolonial history of Central Africa, unites scholars of different disciplines. Much research is focused on the initial expansions of Bantu subgroups, which are explained as farmers ever looking for new lands and therefore avoiding the rainforest, also in the recent research on the “Savannah Corridor”. We want to study a crossroads of different Bantu expansions in the very heart of the Central-African rainforest, namely the eastern part of the Congo Basin (the Congo River and its tributaries up- and downstream of Kisangani until Bumba and Kindu). The region hosts multiple language groups from Bantu and other origin, complex ethnic identities and people practicing complementary subsistence strategies. Considering that farming is complicated in a rainforest environment, we will investigate the role of rivers in the settlement of these speech communities into the area, both as ways into the forest and as abundant source of animal protein (fish).
The project is multidisciplinary and will apply an integrated linguistic, anthropological and archaeological approach to study both present and past riverside communities in the Congo Basin. Historical comparative linguistics will offer insights into the historical relations between speech communities through language classification and the study of language contact, and will study specialized vocabulary to trace the history of river-related techniques, tools and knowledge. Anthropological research involves extensive fieldwork concerning ethnoecology, trade and/or exchange networks, sociocultural aspects of life at the riverside, and ethnohistory. Archaeologists will conduct surveys in the region of focus to provide a chrono-cultural framework.