An ethnographic portrayal of the lives of white citizens of the Okavango Delta, Botswana, At Home in the Okavango examines their relationships with the natural and social environments of the region. In response to the insecurity of their position as a European-descended minority in a postcolonial African state, Gressier argues that white Batswana have developed cultural values and practices that have allowed them to attain high levels of belonging. Adventure is common for this frontier community, and At Home in the Okavango follows their safari lifestyles as they construct and perform localized identities in their interactions with dangerous wildlife, the broader African community, and the global elite via their work in the nature-tourism industry.
List of Maps
Introduction: Waiting for the Flood
Chapter 1. Connections to the Natural Environment
Chapter 2. Photographic Tourism, Emplacement and Belonging
Chapter 3. Hunting and Ambiguity in Belonging
Chapter 4. Belonging and the Nation
Chapter 5. Race Relations and Community Ties in the Okavango
Conclusion: Making a Plan to Belong
Catie Gressier is a McArthur Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.
"This book is an important contribution to anthropological studies of belonging, minorities, settler populations, whiteness, identity, tourism, and autochthony. A thoroughly thought-provoking, intimate, and detailed ethnography that is worth reading to gain an insight into how a white community in a postcolonial nation construct their belonging as Africans."
– American Anthropologist
"An engaging and timely ethnography [...] [that] solidly positions itself within a literature of settler cultures as well as the anthropology of place and tourism studies. Moreover, her close attention to the dynamics of whiteness and how it interplays with racial and ethnic categories lends itself to important insights into the construction of social identities. Such insights are strengthened through her vivid and accessible writing, which makes this book a pleasure to read. In sum, Gressier's research with white Batswana has much to offer."
– American Ethnologist
"Gressier's At Home in the Okavango is a great read for anyone interested in studies about belonging, tourism, and southern Africa. Its particular value is that it shows the importance of belonging as a broad phenomenon; groups that are not under pressure also use structural ideas of belonging. Gressier shows how important these ideas can be in the whereabouts of a society."
– Current Anthropology
"Gressier's monograph makes a real contribution to studies of whiteness and belonging. She puts a sophisticated understanding of ethnographic methodology and methods to good use and has produced a case study that is both timely and evocative."
– Journal of Anthropological Research
"The complexities associated with White Batswana belonging are well explored, and the outcome is certainly an endorsement both of the anthropological tradition of participant observation and the author's excellent fieldwork skills."
– SITES – A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
"At Home in the Okavango is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the politics of belonging, safari tourism, and the meaning of whiteness in Botswana, Africa and beyond. Catie Gressier systematically leads her readers to her conclusion in an innovative synthesis of theoretical frames from political ecology, multispecies ethnography, the anthropology of whiteness, and the anthropology of race through the application and expansion of her concept of 'experiential autochthony'."
– The Australian Journal of Anthropology
"At Home in the Okavango has all the hallmarks of a classic ethnography: as an in-depth ethnographic exploration of a small group of people, it is testament to the value of extensive participant observation and Gressier's perceptiveness as a fieldworker [...] Beautifully written [...] this is an ethnography to think with, to use in comparison, to employ to illuminate old issues from fresh angles; and I expect it will be of interest to anyone researching belonging, autochthony, whiteness, race relations but also emplacement and human–environment relations. In summary, this is a marvel of ethnography, showcasing anthropology at its best, forging clearly signposted paths leading from the specific to the general and from the local to the global."
– Anthropological Forum
"a valuable study of identity and belonging in the contemporary world in which simplistic associations between people and places can no longer be supported, and it also gives hope for race and ethnic relations in other countries."
– Anthropology Review Database
"[This book] is a beautifully written, well argued, and insightful piece of work, full of fascinating and important observations. It addresses key issues in Africa, including those surrounding questions of identity, belonging, and citizenship."
– Robert K. Hitchcock, University of New Mexico at Albuquerque
"The ethnography presented in this important book is original and rich, analyzed in a theoretically well-informed way. It reveals very well how a white minority in this region – which is marred by ethnic violence and racism – has developed a sense of belonging and peaceful relationships within the larger community, where black people form the great majority."
– Ørnulf Gulbrandsen, University of Bergen