New publications by Comparing the Copperbelt's Dr Iva Peša


We are pleased to announce the publication of two new journal articles by Iva Peša, Research Associate in Environmental History on the ‘Comparing the Copperbelt’ project:

‘Mining, Waste and Environmental Thought on the Central African Copperbelt, 1950–2000’

Since the early twentieth century, the copper-mining industry on the Zambian and Congolese Copperbelt has moved millions of tonnes of earth and dramatically reshaped the landscape. Nonetheless, mining companies, governments and even residents largely overlooked the adverse environmental aspects of mining until the early 1990s. By scrutinising environmental knowledge production on the Central African Copperbelt from the 1950s until the late 1990s, particularly regarding notions of ‘waste’, this article problematises the silencing of the environmental impacts of mining. To make the environmental history of the Copperbelt visible, this article examines forestry policies, medical services and environmental protests. Moreover, by historically tracing the emergence of environmental consciousness, it contextualises the sudden ‘discovery’ of pollution in the 1990s as a local and (inter)national phenomenon. Drawing on rare archival and oral history sources, it provides one of the first cross-border environmental histories of the Central African Copperbelt.

The article is published in the Environment and History (May 2020) and is available online Open Access, click here to read article.

'Crops and Copper: Agriculture and Urbanism on the Central African Copperbelt, 1950–2000'

Agricultural production has historically been integral to the central African Copperbelt’s urban growth. None the less, urban agriculture has rarely received attention in the otherwise rich Copperbelt historiography. Government and mine officials, as well as social scientists, have persistently framed urban agriculture as an informal, subsistence and feminised activity. Growing maize or vegetables has, in such views, been interpreted as a sign of rurality that is ‘out of place’ in urban areas, at best a response to poverty and crisis or a practice engaged in only by ‘thrifty housewives’. Such narratives have distorted a proper understanding of urban agriculture. Drawing on new archival sources and oral history, this article presents a different view. It compares the Zambian and the Congolese Copperbelt from 1950 until 2000 to re-evaluate urban agriculture as a normal part of everyday life, an activity central to urban livelihood, identity and belonging. Growing crops has evolved over time in response to socio-economic change, but it has always been vital to the urban life of the diverse Copperbelt population. Considering agricultural production thus contributes to debates on urbanism in central Africa and beyond.

The article is published in the Journal of South African Studies (April 2020) and is available online, click here to read the article. 


For details of other centre publications see our Publications page.