Safari Nation opens new lines of inquiry in the study of national parks in Africa and the rest of the world. The Kruger National Park is South Africa's most iconic nature reserve, renowned for its rich flora and fauna. According to author Jacob Dlamini, there is another side to the park, a social history neglected by scholars and popular writers alike in which blacks (meaning Africans, Coloureds, and Indians) occupy center stage. Safari Nation details the ways in which black people devoted energies to conservation and to the park over the course of the twentieth century – engagement that transcends the stock (black) figure of the labourer and the poacher.
By exploring the complex and dynamic ways in which blacks of varying class, racial, religious, and social backgrounds related to the Kruger National Park, and with the help of previously unseen archival photographs, Dlamini's narrative also sheds new light on how and why Africa's national parks – often derided by scholars as colonial impositions – survived the end of white rule on the continent. Relying on oral histories, photographs, and archival research, Safari Nation engages both with African historiography and with ongoing debates about the "land question", democracy, and citizenship in South Africa.
Jacob Dlamini is an assistant professor of history at Princeton University and is a qualified field guide. He is the author of Askari: A Story of Collaboration and Betrayal in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle and Native Nostalgia.
– Winner of the American Historical Association's 2021 Martin A. Klein Prize in African History
"In Safari Nation, the Kruger Park and South African ideas of nature and nationality are revealed in profoundly new and insightful ways. Jacob Dlamini captures South African experiences of nature and leisure that have largely escaped the historical profession, focusing his sharp eye on the significant minority of black South Africans who managed to live 'with – as opposed to under – colonialism and apartheid.' An enjoyable book, full of surprises."
– Saul Dubow, author of South Africa's Struggle for Human Rights
"An innovative work of intellectual, political, and social history, Safari Nation advances a compelling new explanation for why the ANC government has chosen not to dismantle colonial-era conservation projects whose origins lie in the dispossession of countless black families. Dlamini's skillful storytelling throughout the book manages to balance compassion and concern for justice with careful empirical detail in a direct, graceful prose that makes Safari Nation an enjoyable read from start to finish."
– Heidi Gengenbach, author of Binding Memories: Women as Makers and Tellers of History in Magude, Mozambique
"Safari Nation is a highly original treatment of the history of Kruger National Park from a black perspective. Dlamini does not pursue a polarized interpretation of the park and conservation as simply white/colonial constructs but instead develops a growing literature that presents African people as engaged in many different facets of park history, as agents, and conservationists."
–William Beinart, author of Rise of Conservation in South Africa
"This book is about nature and black South Africans, but not as daughters and sons of the soil. Rather, Jacob Dlamini describes people on the move towards Kruger National Park, a place where conservation meant racial exclusion. On their way, they made a space of belonging through political effort, not nativism. Following its own eclectic route through rural reserves, cities, and mines, from Table Mountain to the lowveld, Safari Nation offers a bold argument that by making claim on the more-than-human world, black South Africans created an inclusive nation."
– Nancy Jacobs, author of Birders of Africa: History of a Network