Nature, Power, and Race: A Book Discussion with Jacob Dlamini on his Safari Nation (2020)
Safari Nation (2020) opens new lines of inquiry in the study of national parks in Africa and the rest of the world. The Kruger National Park is South Africa’s most iconic nature reserve, renowned for its rich flora and fauna. According to author Jacob Dlamini, there is another side to the park, a social history neglected by scholars and popular writers alike in which blacks (meaning Africans, Coloureds, and Indians) occupy center stage. Safari Nation details the ways in which black people devoted energies to conservation and to the park over the course of the twentieth century—engagement that transcends the stock (black) figure of the laborer and the poacher.
By exploring the complex and dynamic ways in which blacks of varying class, racial, religious, and social backgrounds related to the Kruger National Park, and with the help of previously unseen archival photographs, Dlamini’s narrative also sheds new light on how and why Africa’s national parks—often derided by scholars as colonial impositions—survived the end of white rule on the continent. Relying on oral histories, photographs, and archival research, Safari Nation engages both with African historiography and with ongoing debates about the “land question,” democracy, and citizenship in South Africa.
About the author:
Jacob Dlamini is a historian of Africa, with an interest in precolonial, colonial and postcolonial African History. He obtained a Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012 and is also a graduate of Wits University in South Africa and Sussex University in England. Jacob held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Barcelona, Spain, from November 2011 to April 2015, and was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University from August 2014 to May 2015. A qualified field guide, Jacob is also interested in comparative and global histories of conservation and national parks. He is the author of two recent monographs: Safari Nation: A Social History of the Kruger National Park (2020) and The Terrorist Album: Apartheid’s Insurgents, Collaborators, and the Security Police (2020).
About the moderator:
Venolia Rabodiba is a PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford University. She studies the instrumentalization of development infrastructure as an object for the promise of political futures after (post)colonialism in Southern Africa, interrogating the redistribution of political responsibility from state institutions to the material world. Venolia is currently a Graduate Research Fellow at Stanford's McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. She holds a BA Honours in Geography from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.