This edited collection of essays is a first for historical writing about southern Africa: they recover an animal's - the dog's - ubiquitous yet hidden presence in human history. The authors have used the dog as a way "to think about human society". The role of the dog in human society is the connecting thread that binds these essays, each revealing a different part of the complex social history of southern Africa.
The essays range widely from concerns over disease, bestiality, and social degradation through gambling on dogs to anxieties over social status reflected through breed classifications, and social rebellion through resisting the dog tax imposed by colonial authorities. With its focus on dogs in human history, this project is part of what has been termed the 'animal turn' in the social sciences, which investigates the spaces which animals inhabit in human society and the way in which animal and human lives interconnect, demonstrating how different human groups construct a range of identities for themselves (and for others) in terms of animals. So instead of conceiving of animals as merely constituents of ecological or agricultural systems, they can be comprehended through their role in human cultures. What is particularly important about this project is that there is a lacuna in the scholarship on animals outside of Europe and North America. Moreover, the editors have assembled a number of publications on dogs in southern African history. The book thus benefits from the advantages of varied specializations while retaining the coherence and direction usually allied with one or two authors. Book jacket.
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