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Assoc Prof Nick Shepherd

Nick Shepherd is an Associate Professor of African Studies and Archaeology at the University of Cape Town and Head of the African Studies Unit. He is joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress.

Associate Professor
Email address:
Contact number:
+27 (0) 21 650 4350
In 2004 - 2005, Nick was based at Harvard University as a Mandela Fellow. In 2008 he was a Visiting Professor at Brown University and in 2009 at the University of Basel. He has published widely on questions of archaeology and society in Africa and on questions of public history and heritage. His books include the volume Desire Lines: Space, Memory and Identity in the Postapartheid City (Routledge 2007, with Martin Hall and Noeleen Murray) and New South African Keywords (Jacana Media and Ohio University Press 2008, with Steven Robins).

Research Fields:

  • Postcolonial Archaeology
  • Public Archaeology
  • Indigenous Archaeology
  • Archaeological Theory
  • African Archaeology
  • African Studies
  • Heritage Studies

Orientations and keywords:

Knowledge politics, history of ideas, decolonial theory, the global south, colonial modernity, social movements, subaltern epistemologies, repatriation and restitution, the World Archaeological Congress.

Current projects:
I have two current projects. The first is focused on archaeology, social movements and the politics of memory and identity (“At the Sharp Edge of the Trowel”: Archaeology, social movements and the politics of memory and identity). I am interested in the way in which archaeological sites, material cultures and human remains become points of mobilization and struggle in a subaltern politics of memory and identity. From the streets of downtown Manhattan, to postapartheid Cape Town, to Guatemala City, such struggles are transforming worlds of practice in archaeology. Frequently framed in primordialist terms, as recoveries of tradition or ethnic identity, I argue that they form part of a contemporary struggle around rights, resources and restitution. As well as the strategic challenge presented by such developments, I am interested in the transformative possibilities of these non-disciplinary epistemologies and regimes of care.

A second project is concerned with elaborating the conceptual basis of a decolonial archaeology, under the heading of Archaeology, Coloniality, Modernity. In part, this is a collaborative project with Alejandro Haber of the Universidad Nacional de Catamarca. Drawing on the resources of postcolonial and decolonial theory, and on our respective worlds of practice (in postapartheid South Africa and post-dictatorship Argentina), we re-think the tangled inheritance of archaeology as a knowledge project in the twinned contexts of colonialism and modernity.

I convene the following courses:

  • AXL4203F Public Culture in Africa
  • AXL4205F The African Studies Archive
  • AXL4206S Decolonial Theory
  • AXL5203S Critical Issues in Heritage Studies