Event: PIZZA TALK: Materiaizing Memory: Contemporary Landscape Archaeology of a 19th Century Bahamian Plantation

Date & Time

October 23, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Contact Information

Sumiji Takahashi
Phone 310-825-4169


Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)

Event Type

Pizza Talk

Event Details


Elena Sesma

UC Berkeley, Postdoctoral Fellow


Elena Sesma received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019 and is currently a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley. Elena specializes in historical archaeology, community based methods and engaged anthropology, Black Feminist Theory, and memory studies. Her most recent research focused on an early 19th century cotton plantation site in Eleuthera, Bahamas and the descendant community who has lived on the property for the past 150 years, drawing connections between land, memory, and political action. Her current research examines the shared histories of late 18th-century Loyalist migration and slavery in the Bahamas and Atlantic Canada. She has been involved in archaeological projects in Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevis, the Bahamas, and northern Israel.


This talk addresses a community-based archaeology project focused on the history of a 19th century Bahamian cotton plantation and the present-day communities who live on and around the former plantation acreage. The Millars Plantation on Eleuthera, Bahamas was established in 1803 as a cotton plantation and remained in operation through the 1830s. The last plantation owner left the 2000-acre property to the descendants of her former slaves and servants at the time of her death in 1871. Many local residents today trace their lineage to the families named in the Millar will, and continue to uphold their rights to the land in the face of a series of legal challenges by Bahamian and foreign investors who would seek to develop new tourism-based economies in the area. In the process of documenting the historical landscape of the Millars plantation estate through oral histories and landscape survey, the research revealed ways that residents today have materialized memory – piecing together object, story, and space – on a living landscape that has more often been framed as empty or relegated to the past. This research demonstrates how these contemporary Bahamian communities mobilize historical objects and memory as tools for community-building and activism, illustrating the transformative power of a contemporary archaeology of historic spaces.