Indigenous knowledge has become a catchphrase in global struggles for environmental justice. Yet indigenous knowledges are often viewed, incorrectly, as pure and primordial cultural artifacts. This collection draws from African and North American cases to argue that the forms of knowledge identified as “indigenous” resulted from strategies to control environmental resources during and after colonial encounters.
At times indigenous knowledges represented a “middle ground” of intellectual exchanges between colonizers and colonized; elsewhere, indigenous knowledges were defined through conflict and struggle. The authors demonstrate how people claimed that their hybrid forms of knowledge were communal, religious, and traditional, as opposed to individualist, secular, and scientific, which they associated with European colonialism.
Indigenous Knowledge and the Environment offers comparative and transnational insights that disturb romantic views of unchanging indigenous knowledges in harmony with the environment. The result is a book that informs and complicates how indigenous knowledges can and should relate to environmental policy-making.
Contributors: David Bernstein, Derick Fay, Andrew H. Fisher, Karen Flint, David M. Gordon, Paul Kelton, Shepard Krech III, Joshua Reid, Parker Shipton, Lance van Sittert, Jacob Tropp, James L. A. Webb, Jr., Marsha Weisiger
David M. Gordon is an associate professor of history at Bowdoin College. He is author of Nachituti’s Gift: Economy, Society, and Environment in Central Africa and numerous articles on African social, cultural, and environmental history.
Shepard Krech III is a professor emeritus of anthropology at Brown University and a research associate in the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. A trustee of the National Humanities Center, he is the author or editor of many essays and books, including The Ecological Indian and The Encyclopedia of World Environmental History, edited with John McNeill and Carolyn Merchant.
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Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa
Edited by Diana K. Davis and Edmund Burke III
· Afterword by Timothy Mitchell
The landscapes of the Middle East have captured our imaginations throughout history. Images of endless golden dunes, camel caravans, isolated desert oases, and rivers lined with palm trees have often framed written and visual representations of the region. Embedded in these portrayals is the common belief that the environment, in most places, has been deforested and desertified by centuries of misuse.
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 bring together scholarship in geography, anthropology, and environmental history with the study of African and colonial literatures and with literary modes of analysis.
Tales of deforestation and desertification in North Africa have been told from the Roman period to the present. Such stories of environmental decline in the Maghreb are still recounted by experts and are widely accepted without question today. International organizations such as the United Nations frequently invoke these inaccurate stories to justify environmental conservation and development projects in the arid and semiarid lands in North Africa and around the Mediterranean basin.
Through the ages, rabies has exemplified the danger of diseases that transfer from wild animals to humans and their domestic stock. In South Africa, rabies has been on the rise since the latter part of the twentieth century despite the availability of postexposure vaccines and regular inoculation campaigns for dogs. In Mad Dogs and Meerkats: A History of Resurgent Rabies in Southern Africa, Karen Brown links the increase of rabies to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.