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Displaced People, Replaced Narratives: Forest Conflicts and Historical Perspectives in the Tsolo District, Transkei

Jacob Tropp
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Mar., 2003), pp. 207-233
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3557417
Page Count: 27
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Displaced People, Replaced Narratives: Forest Conflicts and Historical Perspectives in the Tsolo District, Transkei
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Abstract

This article examines the long-term development of state forestry's dominance in the Tsolo district of the former Transkeian region of South Africa. From 1885 to 1915, as part of colonialism's entrenchment in local African communities, the successive Cape Colony and South African governments first instituted the structures of state control over indigenous forests, absorbing demarcated areas into a government reserve system and regulating and policing popular access to forest resources. Building upon this formative period, apartheid planners embarked on an aggressive afforestation programme in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the district, culminating in the complete removal of the communities of one ward, the Gqogqora location, and their replacement with exotic tree plantations. Despite the significant and often drastic changes colonial and apartheid schemes brought to local residents, these experiences have been largely silenced by inherited state narratives of the Transkei's 'conservation' and 'development' history. Contrary to such accounts, the introduction and expansion of state forestry in Transkeian communities was a highly contested process, as African men and women negotiated increasing state intrusions into their livelihoods amid deeper social and ecological changes in their lives. Popular experiences and memories of this history reveal the significant conflicts over meaning - the meaning of both forest resources and state interventions into their use - which accompanied the reconfiguration of local environments and peoples.

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