“Diana Davis has provided an outstanding contribution to the field of comparative environmental history. Informed by history, political philosophy, anthropology, forestry, and strikingly, art history—as well as Davis’s own field of geography—Resurrecting the Granary of Rome will provide a crucial touchstone for comparison to works on sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”
African Studies Review
“In carefully cataloging the troubling and troubled colonial past of North African ecology and ideas about that ecology, Diana Davis takes seriously the problem that history shapes both physical landscapes and the power-laden narratives through which we come to know them.
A tremendous contribution!”
Paul Robbins, author of Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction
“(I)f one had to pick a single great book early this summer, it would have to be that of American historian Diana K. Davis, Les Mythes environnementaux de la colonisation française au Maghreb.”
“Resurrecting the Granary of Rome is an excellent piece of scholarship, well written, well researched, and well argued.”
Journal of Historical Geography
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. Recent research in arid lands ecology and new paleoecological evidence, however, do not support many claims of deforestation, overgrazing, and desertification in this region.
Diana K. Davis’s pioneering analysis reveals the critical influence of French scientists and administrators who established much of the purported scientific basis of these stories during the colonial period in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, illustrating the key role of environmental narratives in imperial expansion. The processes set in place by the use of this narrative not only systematically disadvantaged the majority of North Africans but also led to profound changes in the landscape, some of which produced the land degradation that continues to plague the Maghreb today.
Resurrecting the Granary of Rome exposes many of the political, economic, and ideological goals of the French colonial project in these arid lands and the resulting definition of desertification that continues to inform global environmental and development projects. The first book on the environmental history of the Maghreb, this volume reframes much conventional thinking about the North African environment. Davis’s book is essential reading for those interested in global environmental history.
Diana K. Davis is an associate professor of history at the University of California at Davis. She has published in Environmental History, Geoforum, Cultural Geographies, the Journal of Arid Environments, and Secheresse. She is the author of Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa. More info →
Ch. 1: Imperial Stories and Empirical EvidenceDownload
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Once the grain basket for South Africa, much of Lesotho has become a scarred and degraded landscape. The nation’s spectacular erosion and gullying have concerned environmentalists and conservationists for more than half a century. In Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho, Kate B. Showers documents the truth behind this devastation.Showers reconstructs the history of the landscape, beginning with a history of the soil.
The essays collected in Cultivating the Colonies demonstrate how the relationship between colonial power and nature revealsthe nature of power. Each essay explores how colonial governments translated ideas about the management of exoticnature and foreign people into practice, and how they literally “got their hands dirty” in the business of empire.The eleven essays include studies of animal husbandry in the Philippines, farming in Indochina, and indigenous medicine in India.
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.
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