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Nancy J. Jacobs

Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History

Nancy J. Jacobs (Ph.D. History, University of Indiana, 1995) is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History. Her research probes the nexus between environment, social division and power in South Africa. Her first book explored the environmental factors related to the decline of food production and the increase in dependence on wage labor among black South Africans. She is currently working on a book about the politics of knowing about and interacting with birds while exploring "traditional" African knowledge, interactions between colonial ornithologists and African assistants, the post-independence diversification of the field, historic environmental changes, and how relations of power and affection across species and cultures converge in recent conservation and ecotourism initiatives.

Selected Honors and Awards:

  • Pembroke Faculty Fellowship, Brown University, 2008 - 2009
  • Brown University Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Departmental Research Award, 2003 - 2006
  • Brow Instructional Technology grant for development of Animated Atlas of African History
  • Brown University Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Departmental Research Award, 2004-06
  • Best of WebCT Award for AF16 "Twentieth-Century Africa" course website, 2005
  • Brown University Humanities Center working group grant for "Historicizing Post-Colonial Africa" 2004
  • Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Brown University Outstanding Mentors Award, 2004
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Program in Agrarian Studies, Yale University, 2003-2004
  • Brown University Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Departmental Research Award, 2003
  • Wriston Grant from Brown University for course preparation, 2003
  • Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award, 2000
  • Social Science Research Council/American Council of Learned Societies International Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1997-98
  • American Historical Association Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant for research in European, African and Asian history, 1997
  • Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Second Semester Fellowship, 1994
  • Fulbright-Hays Fellowship for dissertation research in Great Britain and South Africa, 1990-91
  • FLAS - Yale University African Studies Center to study Zulu, summer, 1990
  • FLAS - Indiana University African Studies Center to study Tswana, 1988-89
  • FLAS - Indiana University African Studies Center to study Tswana, 1989-90
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, Title IV (FLAS) - UCLA African Studies Center to study Zulu, 1984-85

Selected Publications:


  • Environment, Power, and Injustice: A South African History. Cambridge University Press, 2003.


  • "The Intimate Politics of Ornithology in Colonial Twentieth-Century Africa," July 2006: Comparative Studies in Society and History.
  • "Collaborative Research, Participatory Solutions: Research on Asbestos in Kuruman, South Africa." The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 10(2004): 226-232. (With Sophia Kisting and Lundy Braun)
  • "Latitudes and Longitudes: Comparative Perspectives on Cape Environmental History." Kronos: Journal of Cape History 29(2003): 7-29. Republished online at: Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies 15(2004).
  • Republished in hard copy: Safundi" South Africa and the United States Compared: The Best of Safundi, 2003-2004 (Safundi, 2005): 117-150.
  • "The Colonial Ecological Revolution in South Africa: The Case of Kuruman." South Africa's Environmental History, edited by Ruth Edgecombe, Bill Guest and Steven Dovers. Cape Town: David Philip, 2002.
  • "The Great Bophuthatswana Donkey Massacre: Discourse on the Ass and Politics of Class and Grass." American Historical Review 108(2001): 485-507.
  • "Grasslands and Thickets: Bush Encroachment and Herding in the Kalahari Thornveld." Environment and History 6(2000): 289-316.
  • "Environment, Production and Social Difference in the Kalahari Thornveld, c. 1750- 1830." Journal of Southern African Studies 25(1999): 347-373.
  • "The Flowing Eye: Water Management in the Upper Kuruman Valley, South Africa, c.1800-1962" Journal of African History 37 (1996): 237-260.


  • "The Animated Atlas of African History" (Developed with the assistance of Rolando PeƱate of the Brown University Instructional Technology Group).

Courses Taught

  • African Since 1950
  • Southern African History
  • Twentieth Century Africa
  • African Environmental History