Research

At present, I have several article manuscripts under way with further research in my immediate plans. Three important papers are:

“Origins and Pathways of Agricultural Demonstration in Lesotho, Southern Africa, c. 1924-1960s,” Agricultural History, forthcoming.

“Shifting Knowledge through Sheep-Dipping: An Ecology of Society, Sheep, and Psoroptes in Lesotho, 1900-1932,” under review at Environment & History.

“‘Getting our Grass Back?’: Narratives of Grazing and Governance in Lesotho, c. 1942-1960” (currently in progress)

These papers build on my completed dissertation, which is titled “‘Wisdom Does Not Live in One House’: Compiling Environmental Knowledge in Lesotho, Southern Africa, c. 1880-1965.” Completed under the direction of Professor James McCann, the project brings together my research in Lesotho, South Africa, and the UK, which I conducted from September 2014 to August 2015. My research used archival work in all three countries alongside oral history collection and ethnographic fieldwork in the mountainous Qacha’s Nek district of Lesotho. The fieldwork and writing built on my coursework in history and anthropology at Boston University as well as previous experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Qacha’s Nek.

The dissertation reconstructs a history of the greater Qacha’s Nek district from 1880 when farmers first settled the area, until 1965 on the eve of independence from Great Britain. I use this place-based study to speak to the broader questions that frame my research interests:

  • How have people incorporated new and often foreign ideas into existing beliefs and practices?
  • How did a person’s social position effect how they interacted with new ideas?
  • How have people applied knowledge to make and remake environments such as in gardens, fields, and pastures?

I argue that we must understand the compilation of environmental knowledge as a historical process. This process encapsulates the meanings that people imbue the landscape with, for example, by building homesteads, along with how people understand the landscape as a system of resources to be used economically for subsistence and market purposes.

Over the next year I will have the opportunity to conduct additional field research to begin a new project while developing my dissertation into a book manuscript. I will be a post-doctoral research 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 will be returning to Lesotho and South Africa 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 a historian, my job is to reconstruct 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. By understanding how this constellation of factors fit together in the past, we gain a better sense of how to create agricultural and food policy in the present.

 

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