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Return of the Pre-Colonial Environment? Land Questions and the Environmental Imagination of Nationhood in Southern African Literature
AuthorMerksamer, Frank D.
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As historical and sociological studies of land questions multiply across Southern Africa, the possibilities for thinking about the literary imagination of Southern African environments expand. Thinking about changing governmental conceptions of land ownership and land usage, sociologist Ruth Hall argues that an expansive land question is a question of “how our cities and rural areas can look different” (Interview). Her words belie analytic connections between urban migration and land discourse, linking two, often diametrically opposed spaces. Land questions form political bases and lead to paradigmatic shifts. As Southern African literature responds to land questions and their potential for widespread change, such literature participates in contests over “environment,” squaring developmental and community concepts, urging epistemic reevaluation. I argue that selected Southern African literatures take on what I consider to be an environmental imagination of nationhood. They do this precisely by engaging schisms between governmental and popular conceptions of land.