Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: James Munene

James Munene received his undergraduate degree from Keyatta University. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in archaeology at the University of Michigan, supervised by Dr. Brian Stewart. Read the previous three entries in the series.

I was born and brought up in the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya, Kenya, where I attended both primary and secondary school. I later joined Kenyatta University for a degree program in History and Kiswahili. This is where I met and fell in love with archaeology. I was surprised to learn that although archaeological research in East Africa has been going on for many decades now, there are just a handful of East Africans who have taken it up as a profession. Thousands of research papers have been published on diverse topics over the years but, it is a pity that so few of them have been published by or in collaboration with East Africans.  These few Kenyan archaeologists are responsible for teaching at several universities simultaneously leaving them little time to carry out research. I chose to enter the field with a goal to bring about change.

After my undergraduate degree, I enrolled for a master’s degree in archaeology at Kenyatta University and used my time as a student to gather experience in archaeological field and laboratory methods by working in different research projects in Kenya and South Africa. I am particularly interested in lithic technology, subsistence patterns, environmental reconstruction and comparative studies of Later Stone Age sites. I have worked with collections from various sites in East Africa and Southern Africa. My master’s thesis was a comparative study of two Later Stone Age sites, one in Magadi Basin and another in Lake Turkana Basin. I am especially interested in comparative studies, lithic technology, environmental reconstruction and subsistence systems. I also have a great passion for heritage management.

My decision to seek training at the University of Michigan was a reflection on my experience as a master’s student in Kenya. I was fortunate to meet a number of archaeology students from different parts of the world over the last few years and learn about their experiences in Graduate School. I was inspired to seek admission in schools with well-established archaeology departments that would give me the kind of training I needed to build a professional career and help promote future generations of African archaeologists. I am grateful that the University of Michigan offered me this chance.

Over the past five years, I have tried to get as much archaeological experience as possible to prepare myself for a career in archaeology. I attended field schools in both Kenya and South Africa, worked with various graduate students doing various projects in Kenya as well as participating in laboratory analysis. I have also worked in heritage management projects and on top of working on my Ph.D. in archaeology, I am enrolled in a Graduate Certificate Program in Museum Studies.

I am constantly thinking about ways of marketing anthropology in general and archaeology in particular as a discipline to East African students to increase scholarship and knowledge about the past. I am always looking for opportunities to inspire and motivate African students and encourage established and upcoming Africanist archaeologists to help in the training of African students. I would like to see more Africans become engaged in anthropological research as professionals.

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