The panel seeks to explore the history of fencing in Southern Africa and the role of fences in the establishment of spatial and moral regimes, in which control over and access to land was regulated and communicated. The panel addresses contributions based on both rural and urban experiences.
Define, on the two-dimensional surface of the earth, lines across which motion is to be prevented, and you have one of the key-themes of history." (Netz, Barbed Wire, 2004) A history of fencing requires to think about fences in a way that accounts for their materiality as much as their economic, political and symbolic meaning. Fences express a specific spatial regime of sovereignty (they control access) and of property (they mark land as commodity). Fences, hence, tell us something about the power relations at work, and they do so in particular ways: materially and visually. The grid of fences pervading a landscape visualises the control over land, livestock, and game, as much as it materially references labour relations, modes of production, transport, law, surveillance and policing. Yet, a history of fencing has to understand fences not only as a manifestation of control but also of ambitions and fears. The high electrical fence surrounding a house, for instance, not only marks the owner's assertion that this is his/her house, but also the fear that somebody might break into his/her property. Fences, then, tell us something about desires and anxieties prevalent in a given society. So far the emerging history of fencing in Southern Africa is mainly discussed as either a history of rural enclosure and land dispossession or as a growing manifestation of urban fears. This panel strives for a more integrated approach by bringing empirical case studies and theoretical contributions on rural and urban fencing in Southern Africa into conversation.