Rock | Water | Life

Ecology and Humanities for a Decolonial South Africa

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 26 illustrations Published: March 2020

Author: Lesley Green

Contributor: Isabelle Stengers

African Studies, Environmental Studies, Science and Technology Studies

In Rock | Water | Life Lesley Green examines the interwoven realities of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in South Africa, calling for environmental research and governance to transition to an ecopolitical approach that could address South Africa's history of racial oppression and environmental exploitation. Green analyzes conflicting accounts of nature in environmental sciences that claim neutrality amid ongoing struggles for land restitution and environmental justice. Offering in-depth studies of environmental conflict in contemporary South Africa, Green addresses the history of contested water access in Cape Town; struggles over natural gas fracking in the Karoo; debates about decolonizing science; the potential for a politics of soil in the call for land restitution; urban baboon management; and the consequences of sending sewage to urban oceans.


“In Rock | Water | Life, Lesley Green identifies questions and materials where new ways of Earth governance and African well-being are acutely at stake: wounded contemporary soils, which bind multispecies human and nonhuman worlds; cement, one the planet's biggest contributors to global warming; carbon, which both joins and threatens Gaian critters and their ecologies and economies; and oil and uranium. Each materiality is rooted in geophysical complexities and in sub-Saharan African thought and cosmologies. Green's book is important to anyone who cares about the centrality of African environmental matters in their situated complexity. Green searches powerfully for decolonizing ways to live on a damaged planet. Haunted by ongoing colonial practices, this necessary book is also full of openings for what can and must still be crafted together, differently.” — Donna J. Haraway

“So many writings on the ecological crisis remain grounded in the opposition between ‘the pragmatic cold analytical eye’ and ‘the romantic warm emotional heart,’ unaware that this binary is at the very heart of the crisis they are analyzing. This book is driven by a fresh participatory ethics that leaves this binary behind to introduce a caring relation that is analytically sharp and an affective engagement that is systematically incisive.” — Ghassan Hage, author of Is Racism an Environmental Threat?

"A thoughtful text on the intersections of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in South Africa. . . . [Green] provides a complex, nuanced contribution to the fields of environmental and decolonial studies.  Highly recommended. Graduate students and faculty. General readers." — J. Werner, Choice


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lesley Green is founding director of Environmental Humanities South at the University of Cape Town, editor of Contested Ecologies: Dialogues in the South on Nature and Knowledge, and coauthor of Knowing the Day, Knowing the World: Engaging Amerindian Thought in Public Archaeology.

Isabelle Stengers is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword. Isabelle Stengers  xi
Acknowledgments  xvii
Introduction. Different Questions, Different Answers  1
Part I | Pasts Present  23
1 | Rock. Cape Town's Natures: ||Hu-!gais, Heerengracht, Hoerikwaggo™  25
2 | Water. Fracking the Karoo: /K?'ru/k?-ROO; from a Khoikhoi Word, Possibly Garo—"Desert" 60
Part II | Present Futures  77
3 | Life. #ScienceMustFall and an ABC of Namaqualand Plant Medicine: On Asking Cosmopolitical Qeustions  81
4 | Rock. "Resistance Is Fertile!": On Being Sons and Daughters of Soil  106
Part III | Futures Imperfect  133
5 | Life. What Is It to Be a Baboon When "Baboon!" Is a National Insult?  138
6 | Water. Ocean Regime Shift  171
Coda. Composing Ecopolitics  201
Notes  233
Bibliography  269
Index  291
Sales/Territorial Rights: World, excl Southern Africa

Rights and licensing

A 2020 Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0399-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0369-4