Gérard Chouin, professor associado de História da África do Lyon G. Tyler Department of History do William & Mary College em Williamsburg, EUA, apresentou no congresso internacional de hodologia organizado pelo Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max Planck Institute e pelo eikones NCCR Iconic Criticism da Universidade da Basileia, uma comunicação denominada (Im)Materiality, Diachrony, and Spatiality: Preliminary thoughts about three dimensions of long distance ‘trade’ routes in medieval to early modern West Africa. Eis o resumo da sua apresentação, em que ele enfatizou a necessidade de se distinguir entre circulação de luxo e comércio de commodities:
For the most part, we lack a direct description of long-distance trade routes in West Africa during the medieval and early modern period. This paper, which built on a first canvass presented in January 2017 at the Villa I Tatti, brings together a series of preliminary thoughts on the nature of these elusive features of past landscapes. We focus on the long-distance circulation of prestige goods which, we argue, should be distinguished from trade. The paper is divided into three parts. First, we examine the materiality (or the lack of) of circulation networks. What material traces do they leave in the landscape? What are the archaeological signatures of these ancient pathways? Secondly, we discuss the diachronic change in morphology and layout of routes, allowing us the rare opportunity to reflect on the changing meaning of trade/landscape through time. Finally, we suggest the need to think of long-distance trade routes as defined by a series of spatial segments dominated by central nodes. Silent trade — an African practice regularly echoed by Arab and European, medieval and early modern geographers and travelers, we propose, could be understood as a metaphor for the strategic and highly ritualized process of exchange of prestige goods that was taking place at the articulation between two segments.