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C1 - History


„Big Push“ for Development: Technological Large-Scale Schemes and Radical Interventions into Socio-Ecological Systems (SES) as Catalysts for Modernization

Research Areas:
(Post-)Colonial History of Southern Africa, Modernization, Science and Technology Studies, International Relations

Principal Investigators:     

Prof. Dr. Margit Szöllösi-Janze
Prof. Dr. Norbert Finzsch

This historical project deals with man-made “intentional” collapses, brought about by policies of relocation and resettlement. Focusing on modernization discourses and practices between the 1950- 1970s, the so-called Betterment Schemes in South Africa’s homelands will serve as an example of planned interventions in SES. The Betterment Schemes constituted drastic measures within the effort of agricultural modernization and went hand in hand with the radical restructuring of society according to the principles of Grand Apartheid. The schemes aimed an efficient agro-industrial production, a strict political and racialized control and the segregation of the black population but also at preventing a presumed ecological collapse, caused by progressive land degradation. In order to achieve control of the rural black population, about 3.5 million “surplus people“ were forcibly resettled. This caused a giant social and ecological collapse, during which economic, ecological, political, social and ideological factors interacted. The project aims at an investigation of the interrelationship between the institutionalized general structures of modernization experts and the often varying “interpretations” and applications of different actors like government, Bantustan- “chiefs” or the resettled people, that resisted the removal in varying degrees. The study will show how different networks of actors led to different versions of social-ecological change.