Louise Iles

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Sheffield, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9882

Approve Date

October 9, 2019

Project Title

Iles, Louise (Sheffield, U. of) "From sand to spear: metallurgical participation and innovation in precolonial eastern Africa"

LOUISE ILES, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom, was awarded a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in October 2019 to aid writing and research on ‘From Sand to Spear: Metallurgical Participation and Innovation in Precolonial Eastern Africa.’ Iron metallurgy was of great significance to precolonial communities in sub-Saharan Africa, integral to trading networks and tribute systems, bridewealth, kingly power, agricultural productivity and military might. It was a technology that permeated almost every facet of society and a great diversity of landscapes, yet it is often portrayed as highly ritualised, fixed in time, and hostile to change. Based on research in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, this monograph challenges assumptions about the socio-cultural and economic relationships that structured participation in iron production in eastern Africa and considers how intricate networks of actions and knowledge facilitated the sustainability of metallurgical production in the face of changing social and environmental landscapes. Rethinking Participation and Innovation in Early African Metallurgy: Women of Iron and Forests of Fuel will be published by Routledge. Its core message explores social relationships as key to understanding change and innovation, including an important reassessment of the role of women in iron production industries, particularly how gender roles change through time. It presents a new framing of iron metallurgy in sub-Saharan Africa, adding a critical perspective on the roles of individuals and groups in negotiating change, with relevance both within and outside of the African continent.