This volume offers historians a political scientist’s perspective on the state of the field of environmental politics, particularly as it relates to Africa. Pithily, Death argues that all states in Africa are “green states” insofar as state effects are produced by and through the governance of environments. This might be said to some degree of all modern states, as Death acknowledges, but African green states differ in four key ways: the politics of land and conservation are more significant in governance; the politics of over- and underpopulation are more prominent; the region endures unique conceptualizations of its economic history, outlook, and potential; and international relations are key to African environmental politics in distinct ways. These four themes are explored in chapters 3 through 6. In chapters 1 and 2, Death explains the curious absence of Africa in literature on the green state by exploring dominant approaches to the state theory that serve to mask African states’ green effects. In contrast, Death draws on Foucault and a number of postcolonial theorists, many of them Africanists, approaching the state as an outcome of a range of technologies, practices, discourses, and rationalities. Death’s approach is rooted in familiar theoretical ground for most readers of this journal. Yet this framework opens novel questions in green state literature, allowing democratic and authoritarian, modern and underdeveloped states to all be understood as green states. In this way, Death “rejects many of the assumptions of modernisation theory and highlights some of the political dangers of green state practices” (p. 13). These points are well illustrated in case studies in chapters 3 through 6 that explore the African green state through the lens of land, populations, economies, and international relations, respectively. Death argues that the politics of land have long been tied up with the creation of states in Africa, although his argument might benefit from consideration of scholarship on land and politics before colonial rule. Although much has been written about the transition from land grabs, fortress conservation, and other exclusionary land politics to more hybrid forms, such as community-based conservation, in chapter 3 Death foregrounds their interplay in the production of green state effects in Africa. In chapter 4, Death tracks discourses of population within the green state, focusing on three problem-subjects (the uneducated peasant, the teeming urban mob, and the foreign body) and their corresponding solution-subjects (the entrepreneurial farmer, the responsible environmental consumer, and the green citizen). Significantly, Death discusses the potential dangers masked by these idealized solution-subjects. Like most states, African states legitimize a variety of economic interventions and projects, from markets for carbon credits to hydroelectric dams and carbon sink forest plantations, as aspects of a green economy. Death identifies four green economy discourses in chapter 5: green revolution, green transformation, green growth, and green resilience. Some of Death’s examples are illuminating analyses of recent African history, such as his reading of Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform as an example of the “green revolution” genre of economic discourse (pp. 189–91). Finally, in chapter 6, Death explores the significance of pan-African solidarity (if not always unity) in global environmental politics; the role of inspirational examples (both people and pilot projects) in producing the heterogeneous landscape of African environmental politics; and the ways in which African states blur the lines between the environmental leaders and laggards. Chapter 7 summarizes the book and advances suggestions of forms of environmental governance Death believes might be better than present policies. This is a well-written book with many extractable chapters for teaching modern environmental history and introducing students to complex debates in environmental policy, international relations, theories of state, and so forth. Throughout, Death clearly identifies his many contributions and convincingly makes the case that African states are fully engaged with environmental politics. Importantly, Death’s interventions draw on assumptions and approaches that have long been familiar in environmental history, and there is great value in seeing the insights of critical theorists, anthropologists, and historians mobilized to make transformative contributions to another field. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Environmental History – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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