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Picture of Toxic Belonging? Identity and Ecology in Southern Africa

Toxic Belonging? Identity and Ecology in Southern Africa

Editor(s): Dan Wylie
Contributors: Dan Wylie, Pat Louw, Wendy Woodward, Michael Springer, Katie Farrington, Julia Martin, Tracy Morison,

Book Description

Southern Africa’s literatures brim with references to the natural world, its landscapes and its animals. Both fictional and non-fictional works express ongoing debates, often highly politicised, concerning its various groups’ senses of identity and belonging in relation to the land and its denizens. This often involves a pervasive tension between ‘Western’, settler societies’ conceptions of modernity and indigenous world-views, each complicating the often simplistic binarisms drawn between them. In this selection of papers from the 2006 Literature and Ecology Colloquium, held in Grahamstown, South Africa, the complexities of forging imaginative and pragmatic senses of belonging in Southern Africa are explored from a variety of disciplinary persepectives: philosophical, historical, botanical, and anthropological as well as literary. Their subject-matter ranges widely – from Bushmen testimonies to Berlin missionaries, from prehistoric cave-dwellers to Schopenhauer, from white Batswana to lion-tamers – but find themselves echoing one another in intriguing and illuminating ways. These are highly localised meditations on age-old questions: What does it mean to be human within a natural environment? Why do we appear to be so damaging to the ecology that sustains us? Is our presence inevitably ‘toxic’ to our planetary fellow-travellers? How do we forge an ecologically sound sense of belonging in this post-colonial, post-apartheid, post-modern era? If this collection has a single most prominent question binding it together, it is this: What are the limits and potentialities of human compassion towards the natural world?


ISBN-13: 978-1-8471-8514-3
ISBN-10: 1-84718-514-2
Date of Publication: 01/04/2008
Pages / Size: 275 / A5
Price: £39.99


Dan Wylie is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He has published two monographs on the Zulu founder, Shaka (Savage Delight: White myths of Shaka and Myth of Iron: Shaka in history, both University of KwaZulu-Natal Press), a memoir of the Rhodesian war, and several volumes of poetry. He now writes mostly on Zimbabwean and ecologically-orientated literatures; his book Elephant is forthcoming from Reaktion Books.