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Environment, Power and Injustice: A South African History

A unique exploration of the environmental dynamic in the history of rural black South Africans
Explores environmental history from racial, class and gender perspectives
Covers Southern African history from precolonial times to segregation

Series: Studies in Environment and History

By: Nancy J Jacobs (Author)

322 pages, 21 b/w illustrations, 6 maps, 3 tables

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Jun 2003 | #211632 | ISBN: 0521010705
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £26.99 $33/€30 approx
Hardback | Jun 2003 | #211633 | ISBN: 0521811910
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £71.99 $88/€81 approx

About this book

Environment, Power and Injustice presents the socio-environmental history of black people around Kuruman, on the edge of the Kalahari in South Africa. Considering successive periods – Tswana agropastoral chiefdoms before colonial contact, the Cape frontier, British colonial rule, Apartheid, and the homeland of Bophuthatswana in the 1980s – Environment, Power and Injustice shows how the human relationship with the environment corresponded to differences of class, gender, and race. While exploring biological, geological, and climatological forces in history, Environment, Power and Injustice argues that the challenges of existence in a semidesert arose more from human injustice than from deficiencies in the natural environment. In fact, powerful people drew strength from and exercised their power over others through the environment. At the same time, the natural world provided marginal peoples with some relief from human injustice.

"[...] a fascinating story of the relationships of different groups of people with their environment, as they interact with each other [...] a work of impeccably detailed research, supported by more than 50 pages of notes [...]"
- Geography

"This is a seminal contribution to southern African rural and environmental history, authoritatively meshing natural and socio-political environments in ways that make many new connections and interpretations [...] Jacob's approach throughout is refreshingly nonideological and morally aware [...]"
- Anthony Lemon, Oxford University, Cultural Geographies




1. Approaching Kuruman
2. Goat people and fish people on the agro-pastoral frontier, c. 1750-1830
3. Intensification and social innovation on the cape frontier: 1820s-1885
4. Colonial annexation: land alienation and environmental administration
5. Environmental trauma, colonial rule and the failure of extensive food production, 1895-1903
6. The environmental history of a 'labor reservoir', 1903-1970s
7. Apportioning water, dividing land: segregation, 1910-1977
8. Betterment and the Bophuthatswana donkey massacre: the environmental rights of tribal subjects
9. Retrospectives on socio-environmental history and socio-environmental justice


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Nancy J. Jacobs is Assistant Professor in the Department of African Studies and the Department of History at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. She is a recipient of the Alice Hamilton article prize from the American Society for Environmental History.

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