Nancy Jacobs

Membership:  2018

Member Bio

Nancy Jacobs is a professor in the Department of History at Brown University and an elected fellow of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. Her first book, Environment, Power and Injustice: A South African History(Cambridge University Press 2003) examined the environmental forces that contributed to the decline of agriculture and increased dependence on wage labor in South Africa. Her second monograph, Birders of Africa: History of a Network(Yale University Press 2016), also probed the nexus between the environment, social division, and power in colonial and postcolonial Africa, but by examining different forms of bird knowledge. Her next book, The Global Grey Parrot, reconstructs the bird’s history from its native forests in central Africa to breeding aviaries in South Africa, and homes and research institutions in Europe and North America. During her fieldwork in Cameroon in 2017, Nancy began collaborating with a leading ornithologist on the species, Simon Tamungang, with whom she will be working on this project while at the RCC.
RCC Project: Traditional Ecology, Human Livelihoods, and the African Grey Parrot in Cameroon


  • Birders of Africa: History of a Network. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016.
  • “Herding Birds, Interspecific Communication, and Translation.” In “Writing Animals into African History,” edited by Sandra Swart. Special issue, Critical African Studies 8, no. 2 (2016): 136–45.
  • “Africa, Europe and the Birds between Them.” In Eco-Culture Networks and the British Empire, edited by James Beattie, Edward Melillo, and Emily O’Gorman, 92–120. London: Bloomsbury Press, 2015.
  • Environment, Power and Injustice: A South African History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • “The Great Bophuthatswana Donkey Massacre: Discourse on the Ass and Politics of Class and Grass.” American Historical Review 106, no. 2 (2001): 485–507.
  • Publications