“Stick to thy Hillock?: James Machobane and the Problem of Agroecology in Lesotho,” in J. Carruthers, N. Jacobs, G. Winn, eds., Environment, Power, and Justice: Southern African Histories, Ohio University Press, 2022.
CURRENT BOOK PROJECT:
The Poverty of Progress: Environment, Knowledge, and Injustice in Lesotho. Under contract with James Currey Publishers.
Surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho’s historical and present characteristics make it an ideal case to explore the global processes that encapsulate ecological change, science, capitalism, development, and the geopolitics of north-south relations. The chapters in this book are organized around, among other topics, veterinary science, forestry, soil, and nutrition. Building on scholarship that explores the intersection of political ecology and science studies, The Poverty of Progress shows how Lesotho’s agricultural officials, farmers, chiefs, teachers, workers, and politicians shaped their own ideas about what Basotho call tsoelopele, progress, while participating critically in the production, circulation, and application of knowledge. Through human stories of critical engagement with the environment, I argue, we gain a clearer view of how people shaped ideas about progress under the deep structural constraints of colonialism and capitalism that have created and maintained poverty. My book will offer an historical analog for understanding current ecological crises and entrenched poverty in Lesotho and elsewhere while illustrating some possibilities and limits for how science might address these crises.
In 2017-18, I conducted field research to begin a new project while developing my dissertation into a book manuscript as a post-doctoral fellow at an initiative called Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions. IMMANA is based out of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. As a fellow, I returned to Lesotho, South Africa , and the UK for further research into the social and environmental history of pellagra, a nutritional disease that has emerged in populations where refined maize meal has been the staple food. As an historian, I reconstructed the various parts of the historical period in the 1950s and 60s where this condition flourished: the political economy of food systems, climate variability, crop choices, and food preferences. Understanding how these factors fit together in the past, affords a better sense of how to create agriculture and nutrition policy in the present.