Politics of Nature and Science in African History

Politics of Nature and Science in African History

Basel Graduate School of History; Centre for African Studies Basel
Vom - Bis
15.05.2014 - 16.05.2014
Melanie Eva Boehi, Tanja Hammel

Nature, science and politics have been related and co-constitutive of each other in many ways. In the colonial era, European taxonomies and nomenclatures were applied to understand and appropriate colonial subjects and territorial resources. In the colonial and postcolonial period, scientists have im-plied objectively understanding and describing nature. Power relations have been naturalized through science and science-related institutions, such as museums, botanical gardens, zoos, parks and nature reserves. Nature conservation regulations have been concerned with the management of flora and fau-na as much as with humans. Feminist and postcolonial critics have for some time argued that nature and culture are entangled and mutually reinforce one another. They speak of “naturecultures” that emerge through “material-semiotic worlds” (Haraway 1997, Goodeve 1998). Nature and science re-main highly political subjects in Africa after independence. Questions relating to the ownership of land, biodiversity management or the iconic functioning of nature in tourism all imply that “na-turecultures”, science and politics are interlinked. Legacies of colonial science and colonial govern-ment of nature influence the present.

Areas for consideration include:
- Knowledge production
- Science and technology
- Scientists’ biographies
- Biodiversity, conservation and heritage
- Transfrontier parks, national parks and nature reserves
- Natural history museums, botanical gardens and zoos
- Naturecultures
- Land and natural resources
- Climate change and the Anthropocene

The workshop invites PhD-students and interested scholars (history and other disciplines) to discuss work in progress as well as general questions. Among the latter are: Which theories and methods are useful in your field? Do you gain new perspectives on the disciplines you contribute to? What are the benefits of interdisciplinary fields such as Human-Plant Studies? And which ethical questions come up in your current research activities?

Senior scholars Prof. Patrick Harries (Chair in African History, University of Basel) and Prof. Maano Ramutsindela (Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town) will take part in this workshop. Participants are asked to contribute pre-circulated material to provide a common ground for our discussion – this can be a chapter or draft (max. 20 pages), an ar-chival record or source, an artwork, or a journal article that is particularly thought provoking.

Inquiries, abstracts (c. 200 words, by February 28) and pre-circulated material (April 30) to: melanie.boehi@unibas.ch or tanja.hammel@unibas.ch



Melanie Boehi and Tanja Hammel

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