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Kronos

On-line version ISSN 2309-9585

Abstract

MWATWARA, Wesley  and  SWART, Sandra. 'If our cattle die, we eat them but these white people bury and burn them!' African livestock regimes, veterinary knowledge and the emergence of a colonial order in Southern Rhodesia, c. 1860-1902. Kronos [online]. 2015, vol.41, n.1, pp. 112-141. ISSN 2309-9585.

This article discusses the micro-politics of knowledge in what became Southern Rhodesia by tracing the history of precolonial and early colonial interactions over African livestock regimes and biomedical approaches to the eradication of epizootics and panzootics. It demonstrates that political power determined which version of veterinary knowledge dominated and it explores the multiple functions played by colonial veterinary medicine as an opportunity for social control and 'performing' the alleged superiority of the settler society, as conquering livestock disease was integral to taming the local landscape. We show that the colonial veterinary establishment was still too slight by the end of the period under discussion to have a strong material (as opposed to ideological) impact, although assumptions about the superiority of veterinary knowledge and practice were entrenched. Moreover, divisions within the state and within the settler community inadvertently allowed local knowledge more power. We discuss the workings of late nineteenth and early twentieth century livestock management and healing regimes in both white and African communities and show how these regimes were contested over the time. We wish to historicise the decontextual-ised and romanticised view of local knowledge, by chiselling away at the taxonomic barrier between 'Western' and 'indigenous' knowledge - trying to demonstrate that those categories are fundamentally flawed.

Keywords : African livestock regimes; Southern Rhodesia; veterinary medicine; epizootics; indigenous knowledge systems.

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