Building a Perfect Pest: Environment, People, Conflict and the Creation of a Rinderpest Epizootic in Southern Africa

Building a Perfect Pest: Environment, People, Conflict and the Creation of a Rinderpest Epizootic in Southern Africa

Author: 
Marquardt, Gary
Place: 
Oxon
Publisher: 
Taylor & Francis Group
Date published: 
2017
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Journal of Southern African Studies
Source: 
Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2, February 2017, pp. 349-363
Abstract: 

Rinderpest is often misunderstood in the context of southern Africa's 1896 epizootic; it is marginalised or ignored by many (and overemphasised by a few) scholars. The literature often tells a story that pits people, environment and disease against each other in a struggle over control of the region, a story in which rinderpest invariably emerges as the victor. However, this story fails to consider the epidemiology of the disease. I argue that rinderpest emerges as the victor because of people and environment, not in spite of them. The disease could not move of its own accord; it depends on environmental factors, cattle management practices and human conflict. Rinderpest's epidemiology compels scholars to wrestle with an ironic process, in which African and white pastoralists and colonial officials collectively spread the disease by working against each other. Coupled with the disease's use of the local environment to spread itself, rinderpest effectively destroyed the region's cattle herds. Focusing on the disease's epidemiology challenges scholarly assumptions, such as African passivity, colonial hegemony or environmental determinism inherent in this narrative. I shift the focus away from these historical ideas and inevitable outcomes to focus on the process of this event. By exploring what happens during the rinderpest epizootic and why, this article may challenge some assumptions of past conclusions. I examine these ideas using the recent work of J.R. McNeill and focusing on the example of southern Bechuanaland.

Language: 

CITATION: Marquardt, Gary. Building a Perfect Pest: Environment, People, Conflict and the Creation of a Rinderpest Epizootic in Southern Africa . Oxon : Taylor & Francis Group , 2017. Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2, February 2017, pp. 349-363 - Available at: http://library.au.int/building-perfect-pest-environment-people-conflict-and-creation-rinderpest-epizootic-southern-africa