David M. Gordon is an associate professor of history at Bowdoin College. He is author of Nachituti’s Gift: Economy, Society, and Environment in Central Africa and numerous articles on African social, cultural, and environmental history.
Indigenous knowledge has become a catchphrase in global struggles for environmental justice. Yet indigenous knowledges are often viewed, incorrectly, as pure and primordial cultural artifacts. This collection draws from African and North American cases to argue that the forms of knowledge identified as “indigenous” resulted from strategies to control environmental resources during and after colonial encounters.
Invisible Agents shows how personal and deeply felt spiritual beliefs can inspire social movements and influence historical change. Conventional historiography concentrates on the secular, materialist, or moral sources of political agency. Instead, David M. Gordon argues, when people perceive spirits as exerting power in the visible world, these beliefs form the basis for individual and collective actions.