ABSTRACT

In this chapter, I will draw on notions of ‘difference’—primarily in terms of race, African vis-à-vis European, and gender-to examine the politicization of an environmental discourse in colonial Africa. In broad terms, the theoretical perspective is that of political economy of the environment. Following such writers as Blaikie (1989) and Redclift (1984, 1987), the environment is defined here as socially constructed, and investigation proceeds to untangle what Blaikie (1989:23) refers to as ‘the dialectic between social and environmental change.’ But, in the context of colonial Africa, the analysis is both broadened in that race, the construction of what is African as ‘other’ (Mudimbe 1988), assumes analytical significance, and taken ‘downwards’ (Blaikie 1989:26) to a discussion of the ‘deeply contested terrain’ (Watts 1989:12) of the household as its membersdifferentiated by gender-renegotiate relations of production with a colonial political economy. This approach, of a feminist political economy of the environment, is distinguished from ‘women and environments’ analysis (Dankelman and Davidson 1988; Sondheimer 1991) as it locates gender, rather than women, at the analytical centre of the relationship between economy and environment. The essentialist category ‘woman’ is replaced by analysis which differentiates among women as among men in terms of class, race, age, marital status.