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Dr George Jawali

Home country: Malawi

PANGeA partner: University of Malawi

Year of enrolment: 2012

Graduation date: March 2015

Department:  History

Supervisor: Prof Sandra Swart

Dissertation title: A history of contestation over natural resources in the Lower Tchiri Valley in Malawi, c.1850-1960


Abstract: This study explores hunting in the Lower Tchiri Valley as an arena in which African and white hunting interests as well as conservation policies precipitated insurgence and accommodation, collaboration and conflict. Precolonial Magololo hunters, having supplanted Mang'anja hunting as a result of the superiority of their hunting technology by 1861, found themselves in competition with white sport hunters over game animals. Unequal power relations between the Magololo hunters and the white hunters, who formed part of the colonial administration in Nyasaland from the 1890s, saw the introduction of game laws that led to wild animals and their sanctuaries becoming contested terrains. Colonial officials and some whites enjoyed privileges in hunting game whose declining populations were blamed on Africans in general and the Magololo in particular. Some Africans and certain whites devised hunting strategies that brought them into conflict with the colonial state. In the Lower Tchiri Valley, the tsetse-game controversy led to game being slaughtered on an unprecedented scale in the Elephant Marsh region. The Game Ordinance of 1926, intended to prevent such wanton destruction, was protested by settlers, planters, white hunters and even missionaries who claimed to represent the interests of the "natives". The colonial state and the Colonial Office in London quelled the protests, proclaiming Lengwe and Tangadzi as game reserves. As the state was consolidating the game preservation economy and establishing the game reserves from the 1930s to 1960, opposition continued. The implementation of international conservation trends locally, particularly after 1945, served to entrench illicit hunting and the position among some white settlers that game should be exterminated as it was incompatible with agricultural "progress." The Nyasaland Game Department increased its efforts to ensure that killing game for crop protection was confined to Game Guards, one of whom, an African named Biton Balandow, became a local "hero". Despite this, by 1960 game populations in the Lower Tchiri Valley reserves were still declining. Together with oral testimonies collected in the communities neighbouring the reserves (or former hunting grounds), the fresh perspectives rendered in this thesis derived from a systematic use of reports, original research papers, colonial administrative correspondence and autobiographical works of big-game hunters-turned preservationists. Specific material for the Lower Tchiri Valley hunting economies from these primary sources allowed this thesis to transcend the often generalised analyses necessitated by macrooverviews in Malawian historiography, and offer a more nuanced study of local contestations between state and subject, between competing individuals, between groups, races and generations and, enduringly, between human and animal.

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