“Water Brings No Harm uses the concept of waterscapes to explore the differing and changing relationships people have had to water on Mount Kilimanjaro. It convincingly shows how different groups (mountain peoples, European explorers, missionaries, colonial officials, settlers, post-colonial administrators, environmental activists, and scientists) have engaged with the mountain’s waters in different ways.… Detailed, thoughtful scholarship abounds.”
Emma Hunter, author of Political Thought and the Public Sphere in Tanzania: Freedom, Democracy and Citizenship in the Era of Decolonisation
In Water Brings No Harm, Matthew V. Bender explores the history of community water management on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Kilimanjaro’s Chagga-speaking peoples have long managed water by employing diverse knowledge: hydrological, technological, social, cultural, and political. Since the 1850s, they have encountered groups from beyond the mountain—colonial officials, missionaries, settlers, the independent Tanzanian state, development agencies, and climate scientists—who have understood water differently. Drawing on the concept of waterscapes—a term that describes how people “see” water, and how physical water resources intersect with their own beliefs, needs, and expectations—Bender argues that water conflicts should be understood as struggles between competing forms of knowledge.
Water Brings No Harm encourages readers to think about the origins and interpretation of knowledge and development in Africa and the global south. It also speaks to the current global water crisis, proposing a new model for approaching sustainable water development worldwide.
Matthew V. Bender is associate professor of history at the College of New Jersey. He is a specialist in modern African history, environmental history, and water history. More info →
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Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development
Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965–2007
By Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman
This in-depth study of the Zambezi River Valley examines the dominant developmentalist narrative that has surrounded the Cahora Bassa Dam, chronicles the continual violence that has accompanied its existence, and gives voice to previously unheard narratives of forced labor, displacement, and historical and contemporary life in the dam’s shadow.
Many students come to African history with a host of stereotypes that are not always easy to dislodge. One of the most common is that of Africa as safari grounds—as the land of expansive, unpopulated game reserves untouched by civilization and preserved in their original pristine state by the tireless efforts of contemporary conservationists.
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.At
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