Misreading the African Landscape

Society and Ecology in a Forest-Savanna Mosaic

Misreading the African Landscape

Islands of dense forest in the savanna of 'forest' Guinea have long been regarded both by scientists and policy-makers as the last relics of a once more extensive forest cover, degraded and degrading fast due to its inhabitants' land use. In this 1996 text, James Fairhead and Melissa Leach question these entrenched assumptions. They show, on the contrary, how people have created forest islands around their villages, and how they have turned fallow vegetation more woody, so that population growth has implied more forest, not less. They also consider the origins, persistence, and consequences of a century of erroneous policy. Interweaving historical, social anthropological and ecological data, this fascinating study advances a novel theoretical framework for ecological anthropology, encouraging a radical re-examination of some central tenets in each of these disciplines.


 Reviews:

'This is a bold and important book, an analytical tour de force. It mounts a forceful attack against the received wisdom on deforestation and the spread of the desert.' Wendy James and Richard P. Werbner Amaury Talbot Prize 1997

'Misreading the African Landscape is a powerful and ambitious book which offers a compelling new paradigm of research method and management philosophy.' Journal of African History

'Misreading the African Landscape is a powerful and ambitious book which offers a compelling new paradigm of research method and management philosophy … No doubt Fairhead and Leach seek to inspire an audience of social scientists and policy specialists - they doubtlessly will do so. Yet, more than anyone, I hope historians will be the ones responding to this superb example of environmental research.'

'James Fairhead and Melissa Leach provide a splendid example of the new genre in a thoroughly researched and well-presented case study of the 'islands' of Kissidougou.'

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