In this unique and unprecedented study of birding in Africa, historian Nancy Jacobs reconstructs the collaborations between well-known ornithologists and the largely forgotten guides, hunters, and taxidermists who worked with them. Drawing on ethnography, scientific publications, private archives, and interviews, Jacobs asks: How did white ornithologists both depend on and operate distinctively from African birders? What investment did African birders have in collaborating with ornithologists? By distilling the interactions between European science and African vernacular knowledge, this stunningly illustrated work offers a fascinating examination of the colonial and postcolonial politics of expertise about nature.
Nancy J. Jacobs is associate professor in the department of history at Brown University. She is the author of Environment, Power, and Injustice: A South African History. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.