African Observatory for Environmental Humanities

Professor James Ogude, Professor Molly Brown, Professor Alois Mlambo, Dr Cori Wielenga, Professor Amanda Du Preez, Professor Innocent Pikirayi, Dr Rebecca Fasseltis, Dr Rory Du Plessis and Dr Brenda Hofmeyer  

Humanities for the Environment is a multi-disciplinary project, whose aim is to encourage humanities based research on challenges posed by global warming and environmental degradation. It is underpinned by the assumption that both degradation and conservation of the environment are human driven and dependant on the general behavior of people. Using as its poitn of departure the spiritual idea found in a number of traditional societies in Africa, namely that human beings are earth keepers rather than earth exploiters, the Observatory seeks to harness and mobilise indigenous forms of nature conservation as a way of engaging with what has come to be described as the anthropocene age. “Earth keeping” does not only provide us with a model for preserving the earth, it is also a form of critique of those local and global practices (especially global capitalism), that have contributed to the degradation of the African environment.


The project seeks to engage with ecological issues, climate change, and the discourse of the Anthropocene in Africa. Of interst to this programme is to explore how disciplines rooted in humanities reserch can make scholarly interventions through resesrch to address environmental problems. The African Obsevatory has already identified some thematic thrusts that will be used to drive the research, and these include:

Literary Interface 

Literary imaginagtion and responses to the environment, generally called eco-criticism. The focus is on how African story tellers and artists imagine the environment.

Environmental history in Southern Africa,

Enviornmental history in Africa with special focus on the interface between indigenous forms of conservation and Western approaches, which include the impact on modernity and technology on the environment.

Living maps

This theme focuses on landscape shifts by drawing on knowledge that is practiced by key individuals who make use of living maps within communities and providing alternative methods of engagement between people and the land they live in. 

Digital Dialogue with the Environment 

This entails the use of "photo-voice" for earth keeping and generating awareness on environmental issues.

Governance and the Environment

Governance and the environment focuses on the centrality of the politics of governance of common natural resources in Africa, especially where lakes and rivers, for example, are shared. This is what is called governance of the commons and trans-boundary governance of resources.

Agriculture and the Food Crisis

This theme looks at the impact of agriculture and the food crisis on the environment. The history of drought crops and land management in traditional postcolonial contexts will be explored in this focus area. 


See website

Published by Kirsty Nepomuceno

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