Are Trout South African? Or: A Postcolonial Fish

There has been substantial attention paid in literary and postcolonial studies to issues of environment and ecology, and especially the environmental transformations which colonial and imperial histories have wrought upon the (post)colony. There have been horrifying and hubristic interventions made by colonial authorities, whether in terms of the introduction of species (rabbits in Australia, black wattle, brambles and prickly pears in South Africa), physical alterations such as building dams or irrigation schemes, or the unintended introductions of species (such as khaki-bos and black jacks in the animal fodder brought into South Africa). Leaving aside the more extreme and obvious problems such as those mentioned above, the question posed in this project is: at what point do changes to landscape, fauna and flora become historical – for better or worse part of the history of human settlement in the region. Humans have always impacted on the environment. In terms of what is classified as indigenous, how far back does one turn the clock? And does the trout, which is used partly as metonymy for settler history and whose forebears arrived in South Africa at around the same time as the investigator, have a legitimate place in the landscape: has it become (like so many other species which have their origins outside the subcontinent but which are part of our everyday register of South Africanness – Nguni cattle, Africanis dogs, mealies, bushpigs, pumpkins) if not indigenous, then at least indigenised?

Project leader(s):
  • Duncan Brown (Western Cape)

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