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Environment at the Margins

Literary and Environmental Studies in Africa

Byron Caminero-Santangelo

Publication Year: 2011

Environment at the Margins brings literary and environmental studies into a robust interdisciplinary dialogue, challenging dominant ideas about nature, conservation, and development in Africa and exploring alternative narratives offered by writers and environmental thinkers. The essays examine how geographers, anthropologists, and historians make use of literature and how they apply theories and ideas drawn from their respective fields in the study of both African and colonial literatures. Contributors analyze the writing of Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee and the intersections between literary and policy devices in the works of Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Zakes Mda, Mia Couto, Ben Okri, and Wangari Maathai. These postcolonial ecocritical discussions focus on dialogue among disciplines and among different visions of African environments. Through its cross-disciplinary approach, Environment at the Margins moves African ecocriticism beyond the marginalized visions of the imaginary Africa. 

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The editors would like to acknowledge the support of the Kansas African Studies Center and its National Resource Center grant for making possible the 2008 colloquium from which this book emerged. In particular, we wish to thank the center’s staff members Emmanuel Birdling and Craig Pearman along with student...

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pp. 1-21

In early June 2009, Shell Oil Corporation agreed to pay more than fifteen million U.S. dollars to a group of ten Nigerian plaintiffs, most prominently the son of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. The plaintiffs had accused Shell Oil of collaborating with the Nigerian military in the 1995 execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders...

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Chapter 1: “A Beautiful Country Badly Disfigured”: Enframing and Reframing Eric Dutton’s The Basuto of Basutoland

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pp. 22-42

This chapter is an analysis of Eric Dutton’s 1925 book The Basuto of Basutoland.1 I use Timothy Mitchell’s concept in Colonising Egypt of an enframing colonial discourse, in combination with other theoretical insights, to analyze the book.2 Dutton, who later worked as an administrator in four British African colonies, orchestrated...

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Chapter 2: “Through the Pleistocene”: Nature and Race in Theodore Roosevelt’s African Game Trails

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pp. 43-72

On a summery March morning in 1909, former president Theodore Roosevelt stood on the deck of the German ocean liner Hamburg as preparations for its departure from the Hoboken, New Jersey, pier were completed. In the crush of thousands assembled to see him off, the gilt buttons had been cut from his Rough Rider overcoat...

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Chapter 3: “Hunter of Elephants, Take Your Bow!”: A Historical Analysis of Nonfiction Writing about Elephant Hunting in Southern Africa

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pp. 73-94

The purpose of environmental history is to probe the nexus between humans and nature (the environment). Like all historical studies, environmental history relies on the critical evaluation of sources, usually but not exclusively the written word. Moran asserts that literary studies and history have had a close but problematic relationship...

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Chapter 4: Keeping the Rhythm, Encouraging Dialogue, and Renegotiating Environmental Truths: Writing in the Oral Tradition of a Maasai Enkiguena

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pp. 95-120

Understanding change and continuity in African environments has always involved storytelling. As scholars of African history, anthropology, and geography have well illustrated, history has shown a disproportionate privileging of a particular kind of story: the heroic tales of Europeans and Americans exploring, studying, managing...

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Chapter 5: Sleepwalking Lands: Literature and Landscapes of Transformation in Encounters with Mia Couto

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pp. 121-140

At the heart of this chapter is an exploration of the ways in which words—mostly written words but also language more broadly and fiction and poetry more specifically—engage with the world and how the world (human and nonhuman) in turn “speaks” and thus asserts and (re)creates itself. Related to this, the chapter reflects...

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Chapter 6: No Longer Praying on Borrowed Wine: Agroforestry and Food Sovereignty in Ben Okri’s Famished Road Trilogy

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pp. 141-158

In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon writes that “The relations of man with matter, with the world outside, and with history are in the colonial period simply relations with food.”1 By this Fanon means that existence itself is so threatened that every bit of food that a person can gain access to is “a victory felt...

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Chapter 7: Whites Lost and Found: Immigration and Imagination in Savanna Africa

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pp. 159-184

Sympathetic authors frequently describe African whites as a “lost tribe.”1 The phrase suggests a population marooned, wandering, or scattered (from Israel) or otherwise out of step with its surroundings. Indeed, in this metaphorical sense, Europeans partly failed as settlers and immigrants to Africa in the twentieth century. Of...

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Chapter 8: Waste and Postcolonial History: An Ecocritical Reading of J. M. Coetzee’s Age of Iron

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pp. 185-212

If ecocriticism in the global North began with focus on the North’s tradition of “Nature writing” and its associated environmental concerns, it has since reached into the North-South divide to articulate a more historically informed sense of nature and human need, with Rob Nixon’s “Environmentalism and Postcolonialism...

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Chapter 9: Never a Final Solution: Nadine Gordimer and the Environmental Unconscious

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pp. 213-234

In his seminal work Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference, the geographer David Harvey draws on the gap between Raymond Williams’s cultural theory and the treatment of the concepts of “place, space, and environment” in his novels in order to emphasize “the difficulty in getting this tripartite conceptual apparatus into...

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Chapter 10: Inventing Tradition and Colonizing the Plants: Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood and Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness

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pp. 235-256

In his famous coauthored study The Invention of Tradition, historian Eric Hobsbawm argues that “‘traditions’ which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented.” He goes on to state that “‘Invented tradition’ is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules...

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Chapter 11: Slow Violence, Gender, and the Environmentalism of the Poor

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pp. 257-285

We are accustomed to conceiving of violence in terms that are immediate, explosive, and spectacular, as erupting into instant, concentrated visibility. But as environmentalists, we need to engage the representational and strategic challenges posed by the relative invisibility of what I call slow violence, a violence that is neither...


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pp. 287-289


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pp. 291-295

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444245
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419786

Publication Year: 2011