Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: From Enslavement to Environmentalism: Politics on a Southern African Frontier

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: From Enslavement to Environmentalism: Politics on a Southern African Frontier

Article excerpt

Review: From Enslavement to Environmentalism: Politics on a Southern African Frontier By David McDermott Hughes Reviewed by Bram Buscher Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands David McDermott Hughes. From Enslavement to Environmentalism. Politics on a Southern African Frontier. Seattle: University of Washington Press, May 2006. 288 pp. (hardbound) ISBN: 0-295-98590-9. (90% Recycled, Acid-free paper) US$50.00.

Within the vast and burgeoning literature on community-based conservation in Africa, David Hughes' From Enslavement to Environmentalism is a welcome addition. With great care, Hughes narrates what life is like in and around two villages on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique and shows how outside interventions have over time greatly changed local power dynamics in relation to land and people. But these dynamics differed greatly between the two countries. Interestingly, the book challenges the assumption in much of the literature that African borders are "soft" - not very meaningful to local people. Instead, the book argues that the border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe is "hard" in that "people cross it, but emigration strips at least some people of rights and securities they regularly enjoy at home" (p. 76). This especially concerned Mozambican refugees, crossing the border to flee from civil war, subsequently finding themselves as "pegs" in turf-wars over land between local headmen, the state and private owners in a country "steeped in cadastral culture" (p. 123).

In turn, however, the cadastral politics so characteristic of Zimbabwe increasingly started influencing local politics in Mozambique during the 1990s. Although traditionally more so in former British colonies, Hughes contends that due to conservation and private sector interventions even Mozambique has been making a "sea change" from "rule based on categories of people to rule based on the management of zones of land" (p. 145). And he states that this shift "from enslavement to environmentalism" has not brought more security or prospects for people living in rural Mozambique. …

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