Giants in the Landscape: Elephants, Environmentalism, and Wildlife History in Southern Africa, 18002000

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 2:50 PM
Room 207 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jane Carruthers , University of South Africa, 0003 Unisa, South Africa
This paper analyses a variety of southern African sources that have elephant hunting as their theme. Its purpose is to seek out evidence to indicate the emblematic role that elephants have played in the transformation of environmental consciousness and also as indicators of environmental attitudes. Elephants are the largest of the African land mammals and it appears that this species – intelligent, socially aware and economically valuable – bears the burden of cultural constructs, ethics and rights to a greater degree than any other. Elephant management is a contentious matter, particularly because in southern Africa elephant numbers have grown enormously in recent decades, whereas they are endangered animals in East and West Africa. Historiographically, the paper forms part of a larger ‘animal turn’ within the cultural and human sciences. This identifies linkages between humans and their fellow domestic and wild species and explains how these illuminate aspects of human society and history. One of the strengths of environmental history of this kind is its interdisciplinary nature. It has often been argued that identifying and understanding how the natural world has affected culture may best be pursued through an interdisciplinary lens and within a worldview that does not separate the two, but acknowledges their interrelationship. The history of elephant hunting, management and ethics has a role to play in this debate and also in that around southern Africa’s sustainable development.
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