Out in the cold : science and environment in the history of South Africa’s involvement in the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic in the twentieth century

Van der Watt, Susanna Maria Elizabeth (Lize-Marie) (2012-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study addresses a little-known but important part of South Africa’s history: its involvement with the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic in the twentieth century. It has a three-fold approach. Firstly, it provides insight into the motives driving South Africa’s investment in the region, from the first call for a South African Antarctic expedition in 1919 to the post-apartheid recommitment to the South African Antarctic Programme. Interrogating of the reasons behind South Africa’s activities in this region – including those that failed –throws into relief broader issues about how and where South Africa saw itself in the geopolitical order. As such, this dissertation is situated within a body of Antarctic scholarship that seeks to subvert the prevailing homogenising narrative of the continent as simply the preserve of scientists and heroes. In particular, it investigates how tropes of imperialism and nationalism functioned in these remote corners of the world. Secondly, this dissertation investigates how changing perceptions of the extreme environment of Antarctica, and specifically the Prince Edward Islands, can add to our understanding of environmental history. It also shows how the values projected onto and invested in the environment as ‘nature’ changed over time. Thirdly, it takes into account the humans that were South Africa’s presence in the region and how the underlying patterns in the fabric of South African society, including race and gender, crystalized on the Antarctic continent.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is gerig op ʼn minder bekende, maar belangrike aspek van Suid-Afrika se geskiedenis: die land se betrokkenheid by die sub-Antarktiese gebied en Antarktika in die twintigste eeu. Die studie volg van ʼn drie-ledige benadering. Eerstens, verskaf dit insig in die dryfvere agter Suid-Afrika se investering in die streek – vanaf die eerste beroep op ʼn Suid-Afrikaanse Antarktiese ekspedisie in 1919, tot die post-apartheid regering se herverbintenis tot die Suid-Afrikaanse Antarktiese program. Die ondersoek na die redes vir Suid-Afrika se aktiwiteite in die streek – insluitend dié wat misluk het – bring breër kwessies oor Suid-Afrika se selfbeskouing in die wêreld se geopolitieke orde, na vore. Hierdie studie word binne ʼn kritiese raamwerk van navorsing oor Antarktika geplaas. Dié raamwerk streef daarna om die oorheersende homogene beeld van die kontinent as die eksklusiewe grondgebied van wetenskaplikes en helde, onder die soeklig te stel. In die besonder stel dit ondersoek in na hoe imperialisme en nasionalisme in hierdie verafgeleë uithoeke van die aarde versinnebeeld is. Tweedens, ondersoek hierdie studie hoe veranderende persepsies van Antarktika - en veral die Prins Edward eilande - se uiterste omgewing tot ons begrip van omgewingsgeskiedenis kan bydra. Dit dui ook aan die mate waartoe bestaande waardes wat op die omgewing as ‘natuur’ geprojekteer en gevestig is, mettertyd verander het. Die derde benadering neem die mense wat Suid-Afrika se teenwoordigheid verpersoonlik het in aanmerking - en hoe die onderliggende patrone in die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing, insluitend ras en geslag, op die Antarktiese kontinent uitgekristalliseer het.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/20055
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