Another Experiment at Edendale (Msunduzi): Envisioning Environmental Justice in a Secondary South African City Through Community-Based Historical Research

  • Marc Epprecht, History, Queen's University
    Coach House, Green College, UBC

    Tuesday, October 15, 5-6:30 pm, with reception to follow
    in the series
    Environment, Power and Justice in Southern Africa, in partnership with Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES)
  • This talk presents a community-based initiative to re-imagine urban space in Greater Edendale, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The initiative hinges on inter-generational historical research—young people interviewing old on how they lived in a peri-urban community with minimal municipal services and low levels of consumption, and how they regarded attempts by the apartheid state to develop the area. The project is a small component of a wider movement to build more sustainable and just forms of urban form than the dominant, dysfunctional model of economic growth allows, by strengthening claims to belonging and citizenship that support the right to the city.

    Marc Epprecht is a professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen's University, Kingston, where he teaches courses on culture and development, HIV/AIDS, and southern Africa. He has published extensively on the history of gender and sexuality in Africa including Hungochani: The history of a dissident sexuality in southern Africa (winner of the Joel Gregory Prize – best book on Africa published in Canada in 2004-5), and Heterosexual Africa?. His research engages with human rights questions and the ethics of research, activism and knowledge production in Africa and the Global South more generally. His newest book, Welcome to Greater Edendale: Environment, Health, and Gender in an African City (MQUP, 2016), examines how environmental, racial and gender injustices were built into the physical landscape of the “township” side of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. It challenges readers to think outside the boxes of conventional histories and urban planning in anticipation of looming climatic and demographic changes.

    Dr. Epprecht will also be giving a talk on October 15 from 12:30-2 pm as part of the IRES Seminar Series, at AERL Room 107 (first floor), 2202 Main Mall, UBC.

    Environment, Health, and the History of Development in an African City : Greater Edendale, South Africa

    This presentation offers a history of the complex, and often strained relationship between the predominantly black communities of Greater Edendale, and the predominantly white city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, over nearly two centuries in time (1830’s to the present). I will discuss some of the core contests over forms of local authority to manage growing environmental and public health problems in Edendale and neighbouring peri-urban areas. Repeated failures to resolve these contests had long-term negative consequences that are manifest today in severe pollution, seemingly intractable poverty, and gender inequalities that directly fuel one of the worst local HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. I will in particular highlight a little remembered experiment known as the Local Health Commission (or KwaPoyinandi), a unique form of local authority that governed Edendale from 1942-74. A greater appreciation of the complexity of civic debates around environment, health, gender, race, and local governance in the past might contribute fruitfully to re-imagining ways to make Edendale a healthy place to live in the broadest, and most sustainable sense of good health, with potential lessons for other distressed communities in the region struggling with an exhausted model of economic growth.
  • Unless otherwise noted, all of our lectures are free to attend and do not require registration.


October 15th, 2019 5:00 PM   through   6:30 PM
Coach House
6201 Cecil Green Park Rd
Green College, UBC
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
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Speaker Series Environment, Power and Justice in Southern Africa
Short Title Envisioning Environmental Justice in a Secondary South African City Through Community-Based Historical Research
Speaker (new) Marc Epprecht, History, Queen's University
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