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Christiane Reichart-Burikukiye

Railways in Colonial East Africa – Iconography and Appropriation of a new Technology

The colonial war cry“ – that’s how Juhani Koponen, the Finnish historian of German East Africa, called the railway conception and construction in the African colonies. But railways were not alone instruments of opening up and taking possession of a conquered territory. In the colonial iconography railways became the symbol of crossing frontiers of time and space und of European superiority.

The paper seeks to reconstuct the representation of East African colonial railways in the documents and travel accounts of European travellers, railway ingenieurs and colonial officers. Railways were percepted as ambassadors of civilisation und modernity in an primitive and dangerous environment, constructing and travelling by railways in Africa was understood as an act of pioneering. The contrast between the interior of the railway compartment and the outer landscape was an enchanting attraction and allure of travelling by railway in Africa. Travelling by train was like the visit in a museum of authenticity, Africa and Africans were presented as specially primeval and pristine, as the genuine opposite of modernity and hence of Europe.

Compared to this representation the paper further examines the African appropriation of the railway in German East Africa. Contrary to the European description, Africans got used to the new travel technology quite easily. In fact they incorporated the railway to a long established caravan trade culture in different respects. Caravan carriers integrated their inherited work modalities into the system of railway construction. Travellers and traders used the „instrument of modernity“ for their buisness. Farmers welcomed the opportunity to market their products. Furthermore the railway construction site was a wandering town, a place to invent new forms of communication, community and daily life, where men and women from very different localities probed strategys to exchange goods and ideas and negotiated conceptions of identity.

Jeremy Rich

Monkeys in the Colonial Maelstrom:

Struggles over Knowledge, Race, and Commodities in the Gabonese Primate Trade, c. 1850-1920

Between Paul Du Chaillu’s visits to Gabon in the mid-nineteenth century to the end of World War I, American and European visitors to Gabon sought to see, hunt, and buy chimpanzees and gorillas. Missionaries, traders, and self-styled researchers all bought monkeys from Gabonese communities. The treatment and scientific discussion of monkeys by foreigners in Gabon reaffirmed Western racial and cultural hierarchies and devalued African knowledge and workers. American and European accounts presented monkeys as victims of African brutality in need of paternal rescues from enlightened white patrons, much as Gabonese slaves and women were seen as benighted victims. However, the violence of empire appears in accounts of how Americans and Europeans actually treated and traded these animals. Like slaves, chimpanzees and gorillas served as commodities that could display a range of meanings about their owners and their owners’ attitudes towards Africans. Monkey dealers erased local understandings of monkeys in the same manner that other collectors ignored or remade the social meanings embodies by African material objects, but had to depend on the expertise of Gabonese informants to obtain monkeys. Finally, the commoditization of monkeys led Gabonese to struggle with Europeans and Americans over the terms of trade. Colonial officials sought sometimes to collect monkeys from local people unable to pay poll taxes in hard currency, and Gabonese traders duped foreigners by exploiting their desire to obtain chimpanzees and gorillas. In short, the Gabonese monkey trade exposes the economic and social contradictions of early colonial rule in Central Africa.

Matthew Schnurr, Ph.D.

‘The Hairier the Better’: Breeding for Insect Resistance at Barberton, South Africa, 1926-1948.

This paper investigates the first privately funded cotton breeding program in southern Africa. In 1926, the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation established a research centre at Barberton, in the eastern Transvaal, to develop new strains resistant to infestations of the jassid insect, considered to be the region’s single most important constraint to successful production. I begin by chronicling the initial successes of breeding efforts, in which expertise was incorporated at both global and local scales. Corporation breeders relied heavily on trans-national scientific networks that transplanted foreign expertise and specimens. But research priorities were not imposed monolithically by imperial scientific experts; Barberton’s breeding program was intimately tied to local priorities and concerns. The Corporation’s foray into breeding for insect-resistance offers important insight into the relations between imperial scientific experts and local African environments.

Barberton ’s triumph was short-lived. After some initial success premised on ‘hairy’ varieties that impeded jassid reproduction, experimentation efforts stalled in the 1930s and the station was abandoned in 1948. I contend that breeding efforts failed because Corporation scientists approached environmental constraints to production – in the form of marginal soils, uneven rainfall, insect damage – in isolation rather than as an interaction. Insects were, it seemed, a challenge that could be defeated or a problem that could be fixed: thus they became the main focus of attention among scientific experts. I argue that this ecological compartmentalization hid the broader, more integrated ecological obstacles to production behind the immediate inadequacies of insect control.

Michael Sharp

Big Motor and Dirty House’: Ken Saro-Wiwa’s War with Royal Dutch Shell

‘But is it a good thing to fight?’ the shortman was asking as he chopped ngwangwo from the plate.

‘I like to fight. Yes. It is a good thing to fight. If somebody take your thing by force, if ‘e want by force you to do something wey you no like to do, then you fight am.’

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sozaboy (1985)

The Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa gave his life for what he called “a no-win war” with Royal Dutch Shell who had begun drilling in the Niger Delta in 1956. Until his execution with eight others for what the military junta of General Sani Abacha called a “criminal offense,” Saro-Wiwa waged a peaceful campaign for the rights of his Ogoni people not only against a global multinational company but also against a succession of military juntas which controlled the country during most of his lifetime, including during the Nigerian War of 1967-1970. In the poems in Saro-Wiwa’s Songs in Time of War (1985), “The storm” that “flayed” his “heart” involved the devastation of that “plain of agony” (Ogoniland) due to the ravages of the Biafran secession, but also to the inextinguishable“flames of Shell.”

“The land is a god and is worshipped as such,” Saro-Wiwa wrote in Genocide in Nigeria:The Ogoni Tragedy (1992). Despite the $20,000,000 put back into the local economy, the continuing devastation caused by gas flaring, oil spillage, blow-outs, and criss-crossing pipelines raise questions concerning “ecological racism.” This paper will look at the writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa as “a man of peace” whose words continue to fight a war to protect the environment.

Ogundiran Soumonni

The Challenge of Biofuels Development in Africa: An Iinstitutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Perspective

Biofuels have been promoted as having the potential to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, mitigate climate change and promote economic development. However, many controversies have arisen questioning their viability as a sustainable energy option for the future. One major controversy emerged when media outlets around the world reported riots in several impoverished nations due to grain shortages and soaring food costs that have been blamed to varying degrees on increased demand for ethanol (Faiola 2008; Vanguard 2008) . Another important debate involves the clearing of forests and savannas to be replaced with plantations of oil palm, soybean, jatropha and other biofuel crops. It has been reported that this results in a ‘carbon debt’, that is, more carbon dioxide is released than the reductions that can be obtained from using the biofuels (Fargione et al. 2008) . Some African governments have also begun to pursue biofuels primarily in response to the demand for raw materials by industrialized nations and as an opportunity for economic growth but with little discussion about domestic use. Community groups have alleged that this push is causing the loss of agricultural land and forests and undermines the livelihood of vulnerable peoples who depend on these resources (ABN 2007) .

The main objective of this paper will be to employ the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework as a theoretical tool to help assess the current regulation of land use and forest resources in four selected African countries with respect to the pressure placed upon them by the demand for biofuels. This framework has played an important role in the study of common-pool resources generally. It views institutions in terms of the shared rules, norms and strategies that govern behavior and its analysis is made from the local perspective of the ‘appropriators’, such as the daily users of forests (Gibson, McKean, and Ostrom 2001) . This requires local, regional and national officials to involve the local people in decision-making in order to ensure effective governance by drawing on a contextual understanding of biophysical and cultural realities (Sawyer 2005) . Secondly and more specifically, the paper will seek to analyze the ways in which African social groups have successfully resisted the degradation of their resources (Banana and Gombya-Ssembajjwe 2000) and how community groups as well as transcontinental networks continue to struggle to have biodiversity and livelihoods seriously incorporated into any national biofuel policies.

Finally, some examples will be provided regarding different strategies that have been initiated by Africans, fit into the nested, multilevel structure of the IAD framework and that also go beyond it to provide particular insights as to how to address the complex societal problems posed by biofuels. At the local level, we can cite the Songhai Center in Porto-Novo, Benin, which offers a practical model of sustainable development in both agriculture and bioenergy use (SONGHAI 2008) . The next level will focus on the concept of a consensus-based model of decision making in traditional African life and governance as practiced by the Ashantis of Ghana (Wiredu 2000) . The third level will be based on ideas provided toward an integrated African energy policy in order to better identify and track shared interests, strategies or dangers, given that most of the continent’s energy resources are transnational (Diop 1986 (2005), 1987) .

Elinami V. Swai

Scientisation and Eurocerization of Knowledge Systems in Africa: A Case of Tanzania, 1893–1929

At the turn of the century, African women’s indigenous knowledge systems discourse was certainly ubiquitous, propagated through competing ideologies, of schooling and scientific knowledge, but consistently targeted textual reading. Particularly among the academic circles, schooling and modern science and technology was given a Universalist brand and an added level of legitimacy and credibility, due in part, to their predictive and explanatory powers. In Tanzanian context, the colonial encounters, both the Germans and the British were certainly pivotal in creating this legitimacy and authority, indeed in forging a new template of the ‘modern Tanzania,’ and ‘modern Tanzanian woman.’ This paper uses a CHAT perspective to understand the discursive construction of women’s knowledge systems in rural Tanzania, the shifts of this construction over time, and the current contradictions that women face in global economy. An historical analysis of the discursive scientisation and eurocerization of knowledge systems in Africa highlights: key shifts in our conceptualization of indigenous, local or African women’s knowledge systems; significant changes in this conceptualization; and important changes in our understanding of indigenous women’s intersubjective and intrapsychic self, which force them to constantly negotiate their identity in their families, communities, nation-states and the world at large. The analysis reveals a particular conceptualization of the condition facing ordinary women in Africa, and the relative ‘crisis’ in modern society, providing insight into the real experiences of ordinary African women in global economy.

Elinami V. Swai

Combating infectious diseases: Why not Malaria in Africa?

Tanzania is one of countries with the largest malaria epidemic in Sub Saharan Africa and among the leading cause of deaths in young children and pregnant women. In the absence of a vaccine and prevention, Insecticide nets have become a major intervention strategy for combating malaria. This strategy draws on chaos theory. The dominant chaos theory is calculus-based and assumes that by spreading mosquito nets, cases of malaria will be stabilized, reduced or eliminated. There has been limited success in eliminating malaria in Africa through mosquito net interventions and there is an emergent recognition of the need to understand the cultural and social factors which maintain the conditions for the persistency of malaria infection in 21 st Century Africa. In recent years, modern science and technology have been found to be problematic in providing solution to the eradication of tropical diseases. This has lead to the use of cultural-centered theories. This paper uses a CHAT (cultural-historical activity) perspective to understand the dynamics and persistence of malaria in Tanzania, its political and cultural shifts over time, and the current state of contradictions in combating it. An historical analysis of the mainstream "modern health science and technology" in combating malaria highlights: key shifts in the ‘tropical disease’ artifacts in Western medicine; significant changes in the indigenous health knowledge systems; the relative ‘crisis’ and the ambiguousness of Western science and technology on tropical diseases. The analysis reveals a particular conceptualization of the persistence of malaria epidemic in Tanzania, and the urgency in changing the dynamics of local and modern science and technology to combat malaria.

Bridget Teboh

Science, Technology and the African Women during (British) Colonization: 1916-1960

In the mid 1930s African women encountered domesticity and low grade technology through European colonialism. This system of alien administration was also a process of exploitation; and a production system geared towards the creation of capitalist relations and the economic and socio-cultural dependence on European products. This papers maps colonial strategies of conquest and subjugation of Africans through science and technology, and explores how Christian and elite women’s identities formed especially through missionary education and the cult of domesticity, and also economic and cultural changes. I ask: where are women today? How did they get here? I argue that British colonial authorities in the Cameroons, as elsewhere consciously and deliberately withheld advanced and appropriate technology from Africans and women in particular during the colonial period from 1916 to 1960.

Examining gender segregation in the field of technological innovation and use and what was allowed for use by women, I conclude that this had long term consequences that account partly for the existing gender gap in technology and science in Africa today. This examination of the history of technology use among women under colonial rule in Africa points to colonial bias towards men and also Western technologies. I employ cultural approaches to the history of technology, and feminist studies of technology to further elucidate this early bias/exclusion, and ultimately open up new avenues of inquiry that can help to pave the way for a gender-friendly, and technologically savvy Africa capable of participating and competing in a global economy.

Dr. Olivier J. Tchouaffe

Reflection on Science-fiction and African’s Cinema

Science-fiction is hardly associated with African cinema, however, this paper relies on JP. Bekolo-Obama’s The Bloodettes (2005) and how the metaphysical discourse in that movie is productive for ways it enables conditions to discuss and balance important issues such as body politics, biopolitics and pathologies of power in Cameroon. The Bloodettes’ cinematic importance lies in its medical explanation of the devolution of African corrupt power dignitaries into alien bodies in order to contemplate issues relating to developmental failures, plagues and diseases affecting the continent and represented through the depiction of sexual degeneration and the Aids epidemic. The Bloodettes, through its heroes, Majolie and Chouchou, become an enabler of certain forms of resistance against the Cameroonian regimes. Consequently, The Bloodettes metaphysical discourses is a step highlighting the professionalization of science into the popular culture challenging conventional understanding of public spheres theories and grassroots democratic activism in Africa because it demonstrates that the medical discourse in the Bloodettes is destined to heal the body politic by building healthy forms of relationship. Within this context, scientific discourse is important to further the democratic quest in Cameroon

Jason Theriot

“Misguided Oil Policy: Nigeria and the ‘Third Oil Crisis’, 1980-1983”

Since the 1970s Nigeria has been one of the world’s largest oil producing nations. Yet despite the immense wealth that derives from this production, Nigeria has struggled to develop to its potential. It can be argued that after nearly four decades of producing oil, the “Giant of Africa” is no more advanced economically, politically, socially, and environmentally than since it gained independence in 1960. How did this happen? Scholars have continued to seek out the answers to this complex and multifaceted paradigm. One period that has received little historical treatment in the Nigerian case is the “Third Oil Crisis” of 1980-1983. This period of oil history marks the dramatic shift from the oil “boom” of the 1970s to the oil “bust” of the mid-1980s. By analyzing Nigeria’s troubled past through the broad lens of this oil crisis, some answers might be proposed.

In the early 1980s, Nigeria experienced a historic reversal of fortune. In just a few short years, massive debt and economic decline eroded away more than a decade of Nigeria’s economic progress, industrial development, and hope for prosperity. Twenty five years later the troubled nation has yet to fully recover. The purpose of this paper is to examine the internal and external factors that led to Nigeria’s economic collapse from 1980-1983.

I will argue that Nigeria’s oil policies, particularly its insistence on retaining an inflated posted price (rather than adjusting to the real market) for crude oil in the early 1980s, played a major role not only in the nation’s economic decline, but also the subsequent dismantling of the OPEC price structure, and the ultimate collapse of the global oil market.

Belay Tizazu

The Impact of refugees on Environmental degradation

Environment, according to definition given by geographic terms, is that which environs; the objects or the region surrounding any thing. Especially the conditions under which any person or thing lives; the sum-total of influences which modify and determine the development of life and character ( Clark: 1979). It is a delicate part of nature, which can be disturbed or hurt by the direct or indirect effect of human activities other than the natural hazards occurring. Taking human being as the major factor, the increase in population in a certain restricted area causes over use of resource with in the given area, Elements like vegetation and others are used very intensively which consequently result in soil exposure, erosion and loss of shelters for the wildlife and others which finally results in the whole disturbance of the environment and /or ecosystem.The increase in human population can be caused by different reasons. The mass movement of people as refugees from one place to another is among the many. What severs the case, the refugees move in mass need resources for daily uses. That hurts the environmental system as a whole. ( In this context the refugees are those people who migrated to western and southern Ethiopia due to civil war and drought problems in Sudan and very few from Uganda).It is since 1980s that the refugees dominantly had started fleeing from Sudan to the western parts of Ethiopia. Though the figure varies from time to time depending on the situation, currently a total of about 62 085 refugees are staying in Bonga, Dimma, Pugnido and Sherkole areas of the western and south western parts of Ethiopia (UNCHR,2008). Since the arrival of these refugees, they definitely have been using most of the resources of the areas without which they might have not been survived. They have been cutting the trees for construction of shelters, fuel, lightening during the nights, hunting the wildlife, cultivating farmlands and etc. Therefore, these people are found to be mostly dependent on the natural environment. It is obvious that as the influx of refugees increases, the consumption of the resources also does the same. As many trees cut down, the wild animals lose shelters and start fleeing away, the soil gets exposed and gets eroded, at the same time the whole ecosystem gets disturbed hence, it is crucial to do some environmental impact assessment of the refugees to the environment and ecology using some mechanisms in the remaining little time and find certain remedial.The objective of this study is to appraise, investigate and assess environmental issues associated with the long term presence of refugees and related factors in Bonga, Dimma, pugnido and Sherkole areas and their impacts on the natural environment, by investigating and comparing the present situation and past condition of the areas using remote sensing and GIS techniques. It involves collecting accurate and up to date information on some environmental issues, particularly giving emphasis to land use/cover change analysis concentrating on deforestation, soil erosion and land degradation, potential areas for reforestation and a selection of potential sites for the future environmental protection projects.

Charles Ukeje

From Oil Rivers to the Niger Delta: The Paradoxes of Domination and Resistance on Nigeria’s Atlantic Sea-Board.

 There is a growing sense of intellectual unease that critical historical insights on the spectre of disorder in contemporary Niger Delta of Nigeria is still elusive. At the most, perhaps, one can concede that what exist presently is scanty; at least not sufficient to constitute a corpus of knowledge mobilised towards understanding the complex genealogy of the protracted violent conflicts in that oil-rich but volatile region. My paper is keen to suggest, first, that a formidable crop of first generation historians, from Kenneth Dike to E.J. Alagoa, J.C. Anene to Obaro Ikime, to mention a prominent few, had bequeathed a genre of scholarships, both distinctive and illuminating, on the historicity of that region. And, second, that the present generation of scholars of history must engage with and profit from such pioneering works. My aim is therefore to explore the critical interfaces between the historical realities and contemporary developments in the Niger Delta, with keen emphasis on how notions of domination and resistance are mobilised, cultivated and reproduced over time.

Uyilawa Usuanlele

Communal Plantations System in Benin Province 1901-1924: Environmental Conservation or Deforestation

British Colonial administrations perception of shifting cultivation farming method as destructive of forest as practiced by non-Europeans, largely informed their approach to environmental resource management in Africa. With the conquest of the forest Kingdom of Benin in 1897 and an influx of traders and agents on cut and run exploitation ventures, the Niger Coast Protectorate (and its successor Protectorate of Southern Nigeria) administration immediately took various measures to regulate the exploitation of the forest especially of the highly priced rubber and timber. Among these early measures was the establishment of communal plantations to rehabilitate and conserve the forest. This state initiated and managed system of communal plantations was widespread in Central Province (comprising later Benin, Warri and Onitsha Provinces) and ensured steady and profitable supply of especially rubber to the colonial administration and firms. Suddenly in 1915 the Forestry department handed over the plantations to the Native administration and the colonial administration disallowed further use of forced labour on the plantations in 1920s, and thereby bringing an end to the system. This paper examines the impact of the communal plantation system on the forest environment in the light of allegations of deforestation and sudden abandonment of communal plantations by the Forest department.

Aribidesi Usman

Ironworking Technology in Precolonial Africa: methodology, innovation, and decline

This paper examines ironworking technology in Africa during the precolonial period, focusing on the methodology of iron smelting, relationship between smelters and smiths, cultural taboos, innovation, the environmental implication of ironworking, and the decline of ironworking industry in Africa. Examples will be drawn from different parts of Africa.

Pamela Akinyi Wadende and Eric Wayne Wheeler

To recapture paradise: What it will take to restore Kenya’s environment

When the White man came to Kenya and assumed the various roles, for example missionary, colonist, or even visitor, he had a great impact on the environment in which he settled. From introducing new crops on the scene to exploiting the natural resources that he came across, this effect on the environment is felt to date. This paper examines the results of the interaction of the white man, the Kenyan, and his environment in selected areas of Kenya. It goes further to document any interventions, by whom, when, and why they were made to redress this degradation. Lastly, the paper draws on practical examples from initiatives in the country to give suggestions on how to more effectively reverse this trend of environmental destruction.

Hauwua Evelyn Yusuf and Dr. Ahmad Bawa Abdul-Qadir

Growing Slums and Improper Sanitation habits as Impediment to Development in Nigeria

The issues of development in African countries have always been assessed based on economic advancement and technological development, little or no attention has been given to environmental impediments vis a vis development. This paper is a product of a study conducted in Kaduna state of Nigeria.

The principal objective of the research was to find out to what extend slum growth and poor sanitation habits constitute impediments to development.

Methodology includes the review of literature, questionnaire administration and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). In four Local Government Areas of Kaduna State. Data collected was analyzed using the SPSS computer package.

Findings include:

  • None availability of portable water is an impediment to development
  • None availability of proper refuse disposal facilities are also an impediment to development.
  • Level of education of people does not necessarily determine sanitation habits as people in the rural areas at times have better sanitation habits than people in urban centers.

The paper recommends:

- Massive investment by government in the development of facilities for proper refuse disposal, provision of portable drinking water, and public enlightenment on health and sanitation issues.

- There should also be proper town planning schedules in all parts of the nation rural or urban.




Africa Conference 2009: Science, Technology and Environment

Convened by Dr. Toyin Falola and Coordinated by Emily Brownell for the Center for African and African American Studies

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