This suite of essays is a first for historical writing about southern Africa: they recover an animal’s ubiquitous, yet hidden presence in human history. The authors have used the dog as a way “to think about human society”. The dog is the connecting thread binding these essays, which each reveals a different part of the complex social history of southern Africa.
The essays range widely from concerns over disease, bestiality, and social degradation through greyhound gambling, to anxieties over social status reflected through breed classifications, to social rebellion through resistance to the dog tax imposed by colonial authorities. With its focus on dogs in human history, this project is part of what has been termed the ‘animal turn’ in the social sciences, which investigates the spaces which animals inhabit in human society and the way in which animal and human lives interconnect.
Lance van Sittert has a doctorate in history and is an associate professor in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town. He is an environmental historian who works on the environmental impact of colonial and post-colonial societies in southern Africa with a particular interest in the shifting place of animals in those societies.
Sandra Swart has a doctorate in history from the University of Oxford and is a Senior Lecturer in the History Department at the University of Stellenbosch. She is a socio-environmental historian who has published on diverse themes, including identity formation, social rebellion and horses in South Africa and Lesotho.