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Title:Situating Ecology in Recent South African Fiction: J.M. Coetzee's 'The Lives of Animals' and Zakes Mda's 'The Heart of Redness'
Author:Vital, Anthony
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
Literature, Mass Media and the Press
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Development and Technology
About persons:John Michael Coetzee (1940-)ISNI
Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni Mda (1948-)ISNI
Abstract:The culture of environmentalism in South Africa changed through the 1990s, influenced by the country's transition to democratic government. Environmentalism during the apartheid era retained features of an earlier colonial interest in conservation, but with the political change, tendencies have emerged that link environmental and social well-being in ways that are 'people-centred'. This new culture can be understood as developing a postcolonial understanding of ecology, one that grasps the continued influence of colonialism as well as the present positioning of South Africa within a global order dominated by countries of the North (and in particular the United States). Ecology in this context is deeply implicated in a postcolonial politics. This article reads two recent works of prose fiction by South African writers, J.M. Coetzee and Zakes Mda, against these developments in the environmental culture, claiming that they develop a similar implication for ecology. Drawing on postmodern strategies to destabilize meaning, they articulate a carefully circumscribed value for ecology within current social and cultural orders. The article suggests that South Africa's emerging environmental culture can also provide ways of reading limits to the works of fiction. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]