Environmental History

“Dogs Were Our Defenders!” Canines, Carnivores, and Colonialism in Namibia

“Dogs were our defenders! For black men who didn’t have guns . . .”
A. Christiaan (interview, January 18, 2016)

In May 1922, the Bondelswarts (a Nama nation in southern Namibia) took up arms against the South African colonial administration.[1] The short-lived and poorly organized uprising was put down with ground troops, machine guns, and airplane bombing of the reserve. Prior to the uprising, the Nama constantly complained over a tax on dog ownership that was introduced into the rural areas in 1917.

Killing for Sheep: Locating “Vermin” in the Namibian Archives

Over the course of my research into sheep farming in Namibia during the colonial and apartheid periods (emphasis on 1915–82), I’ve grown to realize that I’m writing less and less about sheep and more about all sorts of other animals, from jackals to hares and rock hyrax. Sheep farming involved a lot of killing, not just of ewes for mutton or newborn karakul lambs for pelts, but also of mammals that interfered with production. Throughout the 20th century, these other animals—carnivores and herbivores alike—were classified as “vermin,” or ongedierte in Afrikaans, which translates literally to a “non-animal” or a “de-animaled” entity.

The “Animal Turn” in History

By Dan Vandersommers

Over the past few years, the humanities have been confronting a paradigm shift.

After the cultural and linguistic turns of the 1970s and 1980s, ideas about language, meaning, representation, power, agency, othering, and knowledge-production redefined the humanities. Now, in 2016, new media, climate change, environmental catastrophe, terrorism, biotechnology, population growth, and globalization are destabilizing the core of the humanities. These forces are larger-than-human—they are seismic and are shifting intellectual terrain. They also require a change of perception—a new, less anthropocentric, vision for a new century.

Putting Zika in Historical Context

The Zika virus has recently announced its unwelcome arrival in the continental United States. In addition to over 2,500 individuals who have contracted the disease abroad, some 50 locally generated cases have been confirmed in Florida. Many more cases are anticipated. With the public health resources needed to combat the disease running dry, the administration has requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding. As usual, however, Congress is gridlocked, and it’s anybody’s guess whether a funding bill will pass before members leave Washington to campaign for reelection.

September 20, 2016

The Privatization of Animal Life and the Future of Circus Elephants in America

By Susan Nance

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has just retired elephants from its traveling shows, two years ahead of a previously announced schedule. On the first of this month—May Day—six of the Ringling elephants went through the motions for one last show in Providence before being shipped back to the company’s housing facility in central Florida, the Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC). Liberated from a schedule of travel and tricks, they will live with several dozen other elephants owned by the circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment.

AHA Member Spotlight: Michael F. Magliari

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Michael F. Magliari is a professor of history at California State University, Chico. He lives in Chico, California, and has been a member since 1990.