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Centre of African Studies: News


Rick Rohde has been awarded AHRC funding

under its 'Care for the Future' Call, for a five year project based in Namibia, including

Dr Sian Sullivan (Birkbeck); Dr Angela Impey (SOAS); Dr Chris Low (Oxford) and Dr Mike Hanna (OU):

“Future Pasts in an Apocalyptic Moment? A Hybrid Analysis of ‘Green’ Performativities and Ecocultural Ethics in a Globalised African Landscape”

This project will investigate how different ideas of the past, in particular imagined past relationships between people and nature, are conditioning the futures being created now in pursuit of 'sustainability' and the avoidance of 'environmental crisis'. It explores tensions between traditional, indigenous and local conceptions of human/nature relationships, on the one hand, and new conceptions underlying modern market-based methods for creating 'green' futures, on the other. Research will be based in western Namibia in collaboration with the National Museum of Namibia.

Field research and in-depth interviews with representatives of the state, corporate, and NGO sectors will explore the ideas about human/nature relationships which underpin a range of new entities that are being created, marketed and exchanged so as to generate sustainability. These 'green things' include biodiversity offsets; 'green uranium'; natural products derived from indigenous plant knowledge; animal hunting trophies and KhoeSan rock art heritage.

Ethnographic work with local indigenous communities will explore how landscapes are conceived and remembered in local indigenous culture, as encoded in stories, song, dance and healing rituals. This will be complemented by in-depth analysis of perceptions regarding environmental change, assisted by an exhibition of repeat landscape photography, in which contemporary photographs reveal how landscapes have changed (or not) since early archival images, dating back to the late 1800s, were made.

We will also foster public engagement through a project website with the URL

Finally, results from these interconnected research components will be synthesised and theorised in a further strand of 'ecocultural ethics', which will examine the philosophical and ethical issues arising at the interfaces between different culturally-bound understandings of human/nature relations. This overarching philosophical analysis of different perspectives on sustainability will draw together the empirical material analysed in the rest of the project.

This is an interdisciplinary research project which applies methods and theory from Cultural Geography, Ethnomusicology, Environmental History, Philosophy and Social Anthropology.


Edinburgh Students