I am an historian of South Africa, of colonial Africa, of the environment, of animals, and of knowledge about the environment and animals. My work seeks out workings of power in obscure corners, in a quiet South African dorp, in scientific collaborations, in a mysterious and forgotten diplomatic initiative, in everyday lives of Africans living under European rule, and in interspecies relationships.
In one sense, I am a traditional social historian: The workings of class, race, and gender have been central to all my research. In considering those categories, I have tried to find fresh insights by looking at the more-than-human and power/knowledge relationships.
I've found microhistory and biography to provide an excellent way to frame these stories. Biography led me to an indepth study of the last-minutes negotations for an all-party election in South Africa in 1994. With my next project, a transnational history of African Grey Parrots, I will return to environmental history. With an emphasis on relations between companion species, I will add species to groups that know each other, negotiate with each other, and exercise power over each other.
|Nancy J. Jacobs. "American Evangelicals and African Politics: The Archives of the Fellowship Foundation, 1960s–1987." History in Africa, vol. 45, 2018, pp. 9.|
|Jacobs, Nancy J. "Jamie Miller. An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and Its Search for Survival." The American Historical Review, vol. 123, no. 1, 2018, pp. 363-364.|
|Jacobs, Nancy. "Pioneers of the Field: South Africa’s women anthropologists." Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 2017, pp. 1-2.|
|Jacobs, Nancy J. "Stuart A. Marks. Life as a Hunt: Thresholds of Identity and Illusions on an African Landscape. New York: Berghahn Books, 2016. xi + 504 pp. Maps. List of Figures and Tables. Preface and Acknowledgments. Abbreviations and Glossary. Afterword. References. Index. $150.00. Cloth. ISBN: 978-1-78533-157-2." African Studies Review, vol. 60, no. 02, 2017, pp. 242-244.|
|Nancy J. Jacobs. Birders of Africa: History of Network. Yale University Press, 2016.|
|Jacobs, Nancy. "Herding Birds, Interspecific Communication, and Translation." Critical African Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, 2016, pp. 136-145.|
|"Women, Migration, and the Cashew Economy in Southern Mozambique by Jeanne Penvenne (review)." Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 47, 2016, pp. 257-258.|
Nancy Jacobs, Danielle Johnstone and Christopher Kelly.
"The Anthropocene from Below”." World Histories from Below: Dissent and Disruption, 1750–present, edited by Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 197-230.
|Bank, Andrew Jacobs, Nancy. "Introduction: The Micro-Politics of Knowledge Production in Southern Africa." Kronos: Southern African Histories, vol. 41, 2015, pp. 11-25.|
|Jacobs, Nancy. "Marriage, Ornithology, and Secret Intelligence in the Life of Rudyerd Boulton, an American in Africa.”." Kronos: Southern African Histories, vol. 41, 2015, pp. 271-297.|
|Jacobs, Nancy. "Africa, Europe and the Birds between Them." Eco-Cultural Networks and the British Empire, edited by Beattie, James; Melillo, Edward and O’Gorman, Emily, 2014, pp. 92-120.|
|African History through Sources: Colonial Contexts and Everyday Experiences, c.1850–1946. Cambridge University Press, 2014.|
|Hecht, G., Allman, J., Burns, C., Breckenridge, K., Diouf, M., Edwards, P. N., Isaacman, A., Jacobs, N., Kalusa, W., Lekgoathi, S. P., Livingston, J., Moorman, M., Miescher, S., Peterson, D., Roberts, R., Thomas, L., Vaughan, M., White, L., van Sittert, L. "Communications." The American Historical Review, vol. 119, no. 1, 2014, pp. 300-303.|
|Nancy Jacobs, None. "Natures of Colonial Change: Environmental Relations in the Making of the Transkei." Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, vol. 11, no. 1, 2010.|
|Jacobs, Nancy J. "The Intimate Politics of Ornithology in Colonial Africa." Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 48, no. 03, 2006.|
|Rome, A., Appuhn, K., Buell, L., Chaplin, J., Cioc, M., Colten, C. E., Cronon, W., Crumley, C. L., Elvin, M., Fagan, B., Fitzgerald, D., Glave, D. D., Hammond, L., Harrison, R. P., Harvey, M., Hoffmann, R. C., Hughes, J. D., Humphreys, M., Jacobs, N. J., Kellert, S. R., Klingle, M., Krech, S., Maddox, G. H., McEvoy, A. F., Melosi, M. V., Morse, K., Pritchard, S. B., Radding, C., Slater, C., Slaughter, T. P., Steinberg, T., Tarr, J. A., Taylor, A., Totman, C., Tyrrell, I., Valencius, C. B., Walls, L. D., Webb, J. L. A., West, E., Williams, M. "What Books Should Be More Widely Read in Environmental History?." Environmental History, vol. 10, no. 4, 2005, pp. 666-769.|
|Terblanche, Otto, Jacobs, Nancy, Scanlon, Helen, Saunders, Christopher, Lambert, John, Wylie, Diana, Lubbe, Henriëtte J., Dawson, Marcelle, Wessels, André, Gelderblom, Derik, Dagut, Simon, Worden, Nigel, White, Tim, van Zyl, Diko, Mendelsohn, Adam, Phillips, Howard, Dedering, Tilman, Carruthers, Jane, Pridmore, Julie. "Book Review." South African Historical Journal, vol. 50, no. 1, 2004, pp. 268-310.|
|Jacobs, Nancy, Kisting, Sophia, Braun, Lundy. "Collaborative Research, Participatory Solutions: Research on Asbestos in Kuruman, South Africa." International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, vol. 10, no. 2, 2004, pp. 226-232.|
|Jacobs, Nancy. "Cutting the Vines of the Past: Environmental Histories of the Central African Rain Forest." The Public Historian, vol. 26, no. 2, 2004, pp. 111-113.|
|Maddox, Gregory H., Jacobs, Nancy J. "Environment, Power, and Injustice: A South African History." Environmental History, vol. 9, no. 3, 2004, pp. 538.|
|Jacobs, Nancy J. "Latitudes and Longitudes." Safundi, vol. 5, no. 3, 2004, pp. 1-25.|
|Nancy J. Jacobs. "The Great Bophuthatswana Donkey Massacre: Discourse on the Ass and the Politics of Class and Grass." The American Historical Review, vol. 106, no. 2, 2001, pp. 23.|
|Nancy J. Jacobs. "Grasslands and Thickets: Bush Encroachment and Herding in the Kalahari Thornveld." vol. 6, 2000, pp. 28.|
|Jacobs, Nancy. "The Flowing Eye: Water Management in the Upper Kuruman Valley, South Africa, c. 1800–1962." J. Afr. Hist., vol. 37, no. 02, 1996, pp. 237.|
My book "Birders of Africa: History of a Network" was published with Yale University Press in 2016. Drawing on Actor Network Theory and employing the approach of micro-history, I examine intersections between African and European birders. I explore how local African, scientific, and colonial forces structured these relationships. Through close examination of individual lives, I identify the aspirations and affective ties that drew birders to seek expertise and status through their collaborations.
My current research project is "The African Grey Parrot: A Global History."
I am current researching the transnational interspecies history of the two species of African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh). The work will feature these birds and their communication and relations with other animals, including humans, in six temporally specific habitats:
My 2016 book, "Birders of Africa: History of a Network," examines the interplay between local knowledge and science at the micro and macro levels. At the macro-level I consider the nature of agrarian bird knowledge and the history of ornithology in colonial Africa. I have found Actor Network Theory useful for reframing some debates about imperial science and its relation with local expertise. At the micro-level I work with the biographies of birders engaged in collaboration. These show that the structuring forces of race and empire left room for individual variation. Birders from all traditions sought status as experts, but the rewards of expertise differed greatly.
In addition to this monograph project, I have completed the first of two planned volumes of a sourcebook developed through my own teaching. African History through Sources: Colonial Contexts and Everyday Experiences appeared in 2014 with Cambridge University Press. The second volume, on Africa from 1945 through 2015, is under contract. Jennifer Johnson of the Brown University History Department will serve as co-author. Entries in both volumes include government documents, memoirs by "ordinary" people and politicians, interviews with illiterate people whose perspectives might otherwise be forgotten, commentary by intellectuals, song lyrics, and photographs.
|1987||MA||University of California, Los Angeles|
2019 Engaged Course Development Grant, Swearer Center at Brown University.
2018 Carson Fellow, Rachel Carson Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität.
2016 Faculty Fellow, Cogut Center for the Humanities, Brown University
2016 Pembroke Center, Seed Grant for Animal Studies Working Group (Lead PI)
2015 Brown University, President’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Governance
2014 Benedict Visiting Distinguished Professor of History, Carleton College
2011 The Harriet W. Sheridan Award for Distinguished Contribution to Teaching and Learning at Brown University
2005 Best of WebCT for AF16 "Twentieth-Century Africa" course website
2004 Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Brown University Outstanding Mentors Award
2003-04 Program in Agrarian Studies Fellowship, Yale University
2002 American Society for Environmental History Alice Hamilton Prize (Best article published outside the journal, Environmental History ) for "The Great Bophuthatswana Donkey Massacre: Discourse on the Ass and Politics of Class and Grass"
2001 Wriston Grant from Brown University for course preparation
2000 Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award from Brown University
1997-98 American Council for Learned Societies/Social Science Research Council, International Postdoctoral Fellowship
1997 American Historical Association Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant
1994 Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Fellowship
1990-91 Fulbright-Hays Fellowship for dissertation research in Great Britain and South Africa
1990 Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, Title IV (FLAS), Yale University African Studies Center to study Zulu (summer)
1989-90 FLAS, Indiana University African Studies Center to study Tswana
1988-89 FLAS, Indiana University African Studies Center to study Tswana
1984-85 FLAS, University of California at Los Angeles African Studies Center to study Zulu
|Johnson, Jennifer||Associate Professor of History|
American Society for Environmental History
American Historical Association
|ENVS 1557 - Birding Communities|
|HIST 0202 - African Experiences of Empire|
|HIST 1030 - Entangled South Africa|
|HIST 1030 - South African History|
|HIST 1030 - Southern African Entanglements: Class, Gender, Race, and Species since 1870|
|HIST 1960G - Southern African Frontiers, c. 1400-1860|
|HIST 1960H - Colonization and Southern Africa's First Peoples|
|HIST 1976C - Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Environmental Histories of Non-Human Actors|
|HIST 1976G - Animal Histories|
|HIST 1977B - Feathery Things: An Avian Introduction to Animal Studies|
|HIST 2981T - Race and Species|