Professor of History

Overview

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 environment 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. 

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas