Seminar by Sandra Swart: The Lion’s Historian: Animal Histories from the South


Video duration: 
1 h 20 min

The Lion's HistoryTaking the African epigram “Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter” as its starting point, this seminar discusses how we may become the lion’s historians. Prof. Sandra Swart (Stellenbosch University) argues that including other species in understanding the past is another way of ‘doing history’ and not necessarily a separate ‘animal turn’ in historiography. Instead, she argues that we allow the creatures on the edge of our vision to move into our disciplinary line of sight. This has been seen previously in social history, first with workers, then with women, and now animals. Prof. Swart's aim is to start telling a social (rather than natural) history of the human-animal relationship.

We can offer more than the natural history of animals if we can show that it is both ideographic and diachronic: It changes over place and time. We can then tell a social history of animals – albeit most often seen through the eyes of their enemies. Animals are as historical as we are ourselves. They, like us, are products of our own biology and evolutionary pasts, but also products of our changing environments and our shifting socio-political present, within cultures that change over time and that comprise individuals who do not conform to stereotype. In short, they both experience change and effect change – they have history.

Chair: Prof. Jan-Bart Gewald, ASCL

Sandra SwartWith a DPhil in Modern History and an MSc in Environmental Change and Management, both from Oxford University (2001), Sandra Swart is Professor of History at Stellenbosch University. She researches the socio-environmental history of southern Africa with a focus on the shifting relationship between humans and animals. She is sole author of Riding High – horses, humans and history in South Africa (Witwatersrand University Press, 2010). She co-edited (with L. Van Sittert) Canis Africanis – a dog history of Southern Africa (Brill, 2008) and co-authored with Greg Bankoff, Breeds of Empire: The ‘invention’ of the horse in the Philippines and Southern Africa, 1500-1950 (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press 2007).

Date, time and location

07 June 2018
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 1A27 (first floor)