Jacob Tropp

John Spencer Professor of African Studies

 work(802) 443-3250
 Fall 2017: Tuesdays 3:00 - 4:00 pm and Thursdays 1:00 - 2:30 pm, or by appointment
 Axinn Center at Starr Library 341

Jacob Tropp has taught in the History Department since 1999.  He received his B.A. from Haverford College and his Ph.D. in African history at the University of Minnesota, where he was also a funded scholar in the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability, and Justice.  His doctoral dissertation, “Roots and Rights in the Transkei: Colonialism, Natural Resources, and Social Change, 1880-1940,” received the 2003 award for best dissertation in environmental history from the American Society for Environmental History.  His research on social and environmental history in the Eastern Cape of South Africa was the basis of his book Natures of Colonial Change: Environmental Relations in the Making of the Transkei (Ohio University Press, New African Histories Series, 2006) as well as several articles published in African history journals.  He has been awarded fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany, the American Philosophical Society, the Social Science Research Council, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad program.  His current work pertaining to South Africa includes research on colonial era conflicts over health and healing rituals in the Eastern Cape.  He is also working on a book project of a more transnational nature, currently titled Native America and the Globalization of Development, which explores the international connections between U.S. government programs on Native American reservations and Western development efforts overseas in the mid-20th century.  He teaches a wide range of courses related to African history, from introductory survey courses on early and modern Africa to topical seminars on women and gender, human-environmental interactions, popular culture, everyday life in South Africa, and liberation struggles in southern Africa.

Selected Publications:

“Locust Invasions and Tensions over Environmental and Bodily Health in the Colonial Transkei,” in David M. Gordon and Shepard Krech III, eds., Indigenous Knowledge and the Environment in Africa and North America (Ohio University Press, Ecology and History Series, 2012).

Natures of Colonial Change: Environmental Relations in the Making of the Transkei (Ohio University Press, New African Histories Series, 2006).

“The Contested Nature of Colonial Landscapes: Historical Perspectives on Livestock and Environments in the Transkei,” Kronos: The Journal of Cape History 30 (November 2004), 118-37.

“The Python and the Crying Tree: Interpreting Tales of Environmental and Colonial Power in the Transkei,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 36, 3 (2003), 511-32.

“Displaced People, Replaced Narratives: Forest Conflicts and Historical Perspectives in the Tsolo District, Transkei,” Journal of Southern African Studies 29, 1 (March 2003), 207-33.

“Dogs, Poison and the Meaning of Colonial Intervention in the Transkei, South Africa,” Journal of African History 43, 3 (2002), 451-72.

Recent Presentations:

“Native American Development and Counter-Insurgency in Southeast Asia in the late 1960s,’ Native American and Indigenous Studies Association annual conference, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, June 12-15, 2013.

“Native America and the Making of International Development Expertise in the Mid-20th Century,” World History Association annual conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 27-30, 2012.

“Tough Pills to Swallow: Struggles over African Medical Practices among Healers, Patients, and the Colonial State in the Transkei,” African Studies Association annual meeting, Washington, D.C., November 17-20, 2011.

“Courtroom Struggles over Healers’ Power and Wealth in the Colonial Transkei,” North Eastern Workshop on Southern Africa, Burlington, VT, October 21-23, 2011.

“Reservations as Transnational ‘Laboratories’: Experiments in International Development and ‘Indian Affairs’ Training after WWII,” World History Association annual conference, Capital Normal University, Beijing, China, July 7-10, 2011.

“From Taos Pueblo to Teheran’s Poor: Situating American Development Knowledge and Interventions in the Mid-20th Century,” Colloquium Series, Rachel Carson Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany, November 11, 2010.

“Conserving ‘Native’ Lands: Transnational Dialogues over Official Environmentalism in British Colonial Africa and the Native American Southwest,” World Congress of Environmental History, Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden, August 4-8, 2009.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

ENVS 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
In this course, students (non-seniors) carry out an independent research or creative project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member with related expertise who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program, must involve a significant amount of independent research and analysis. The expectations and any associated final products will be defined in consultation with the faculty advisor. Students may enroll in ENVS 0500 no more than twice for a given project. (Approval only)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

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ENVS 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
In this course, seniors complete an independent research or creative project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. During the term prior to enrolling in ENVS 0700, a student must discuss and agree upon a project topic with a faculty advisor who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program and submit a brief project proposal to the Director of Environmental Studies for Approval. The expectations and any associated final products will be defined in consultation with the faculty advisor. Students may enroll in ENVS 0700 as a one-term independent study OR up to twice as part of a multi-term project, including as a lead-up to ENVS 0701 (ES Senior Thesis). (Senior standing; Approval only)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

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FYSE 1247 - Everyday Life in South Africa      

Everyday Life in South Africa, 1948-Present
In this seminar we will explore some of the social worlds of South Africans amid the country's recent decades of turbulent and dramatic change. We will look at how different groups within the nation's diverse population have understood and experienced the rise of the apartheid system, its demise, and its legacies in their "everyday" lives and interactions. We will draw from various sources - non-fiction, fiction, film, music, and other forms of popular culture - to interpret these social dynamics and their ongoing significance in a post-apartheid society. 3 hrs. sem. AAL CW HIS

Fall 2016

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HIST 0113 - History of Africa to 1800      

History of Africa To 1800
This course offers an introductory survey of African history from earliest times to 1800. Through lectures, discussions, readings, and films, we will explore Africa’s complex and diverse pre-colonial past. Themes examined in the course include development of long-distance trade networks, the linkages between ecological change and social dynamics, the formation of large pre-colonial states, and the transatlantic slave trade and its impact on social and economic relations within Africa. A broader concern in the course is how we have come to understand the meaning of “Africa” itself and what is at stake in interpreting Africa’s pre-colonial history. Pre-1800. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. AAL HIS SAF SOC

Spring 2014

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HIST 0114 - History of Modern Africa      

History of Modern Africa
We begin looking at revolutions in the early 19th century and the transformations surrounding the slave trade. Next we examine the European colonization of the continent, exploring how diverse interventions into Africans' lives had complex effects on political authority, class and generational dynamics, gender relations, ethnic and cultural identities, and rural and urban livelihoods. After exploring Africans' struggles against colonial rule in day-to-day practices and mass political movements, the last few weeks cover Africa's transition to independence and the postcolonial era, including the experience of neo-colonialism, ethnic conflict, poverty, and demographic crisis. (formerly HIST 0226) 2 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. AAL HIS SAF SOC

Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

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HIST 0315 - Health/Healing in African Hist      

Health and Healing in African History
In this course we will complicate our contemporary perspectives on health and healing in Africa by exploring diverse historical examples from the continent's deep past. Our readings, discussions, and papers will cover a range of historical contexts and topics, such as the politics of rituals and public healing ceremonies in pre-colonial contexts, state and popular responses to shifting disease landscapes in the colonial era, long-term cultural and economic changes in healer-patient dynamics, the problematic legacies of environmental health hazards in the post-colonial period, and Africans' engagement with global health interventions in recent decades. 3 hrs. sem. AAL HIS SAF SOC

Spring 2014, Fall 2017

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HIST 0375 - Struggles in Southern Africa      

Struggles for Change in Southern Africa
In this course we will examine the tumultuous period of social struggle in southern Africa in the decades following World War II. Major topics to be covered include the rise of apartheid and the mobilization of anti-apartheid resistance in South Africa and Namibia; the liberation struggle against white settler rule in Zimbabwe; the fight for freedom from Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique; and Mozambique's protracted civil war following independence. A central purpose of this course is to explore how these different arenas of struggle transformed individual lives and social relations in complex and diverse ways, generating enduring impacts and challenges within the region. AAL HIS SAF SOC

Fall 2013, Spring 2015

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HIST 0442 - Popular Culture/History/Africa      

Popular Culture and History in Africa
In recent years scholars of the African past have increasingly turned their attention to the multiple arenas of "popular culture" that have helped shape and express Africans' histories. In this course, we will explore the diverse thematic range of such approaches and the new conceptual lenses they bring to interpreting African colonial and post-colonial history. Readings and seminar discussions will touch on such varied historical topics as Africans as producers and consumers of popular photography, film/video, and music; the politics of fashion; and local dynamics of sports and leisure. (Formerly HIST 0420) 3 hrs. sem. AAL HIS SAF SOC

Spring 2018

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HIST 0443 / GSFS 0443 - Readings in African History      

Readings in African History: Women and Gender in Africa
This course takes up the challenge of understanding women's experiences and the role of gender in Africa's past. We will read from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives and literary forms, including ethnographies, life histories, and fiction, in order to explore different methodological and interpretive approaches to these subjects. Themes will include: changes in the structure of patriarchy and women's status in the pre-colonial period, the gendered impact of colonial rule on African economies and ecologies, historical identities of masculinity and femininity, and gendered experience of postcolonial "development." Prior experience in African history is not required. (formerly HIST/WAGS 0421) 3 hrs. seminar AAL HIS SAF

Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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HIST 0500 - Special Research Projects      

Special research projects during the junior year may be used to fulfill the research seminar requirements in some cases. Approval of department chair and project advisor is required.

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

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HIST 0600 - History Research Seminar      

History Research Seminar
All history majors who have not taken a writing and research seminar are required to take HIST 0600 in their junior fall or, if abroad at that time, their senior fall semester. In this course, students will conceive, research, and write a work of history based on primary source material to the degree possible. After reading and discussion on historical methods and research strategies, students will pursue a paper topic as approved by the course professors. HIST 0600 is also open to International Studies and Environmental Studies majors with a disciplinary focus in history. 3 hr. sem

Fall 2013

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HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

The History Senior Thesis is required of all majors. It is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. The project is generally begun in the fall and completed during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring, and such students must still attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops that take place in fall and winter.

Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018

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Program in Environmental Studies

Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest
531 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753