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Past Futures investigates the history of ‘future-making’ in KAZA, considering the history of rural development and the history of political schemes devised for the administration and control of the KAZA region. These histories have been deeply contested with KAZA, as rival external actors have sought to impose their own visions of the future upon the peoples of the KAZA, and as both movements of colonization and secessionism have challenged the sovereignty of the region. The project adopts a methodology that mixes archival research with the collection of oral histories, and strongly critical approach being taken toward both.

Rural development programmes have been a prominent feature in the political economy of the region of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA) since the 1950s, although their character, extent, and aims have varied enormously. Through their policies for development, colonial and then post-colonial governments in this region sought to redefine patterns of land use, dictate the functioning of local social ecologies, and drive local thinking about future-making. The region has also been subject to ambitious political schemes to possess or redefine its sovereignty – involving secessionism, empire-building and radical schemes of ‘future-making’. Past Futures will consider what impact the history of past political and economic development interventions now has upon the reception of and engagement with current initiatives in the region – and the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA) that now binds five countries together in a shared scheme for land management and conservation development. Past, present, and future are linked through community experience of these past interventions: to know what future the rural communities of the KAZA imagine for themselves today, we must understand how their historical experience of past development has shaped their expectations. The project will draw upon case studies from Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, covering the period from 1890 to the present.


Past Futures is funded by the German Research Council (DFG), as part of Collaborative Research Centre 228, a joint programme of the University of Bonn and the University of Cologne. Research on this project began in January 2022, and archival research has already been conducted in Namibia, Zambia, South Africa, the USA and the UK. The project funding ends in December 2025. Four journal articles and book chapters are planned as the key outputs from the project, along with a monograph to be co-authored by Anderson and Jackson.


Project Team:

Principal investigator: Professor David M Anderson

Post-doctoral researcher: Dr Jonathan M. Jackson (University of Cologne)

Collaborating researchers: Professor M.M.M. Bolaane (University of Botswana)

Professor Bennett Kangumu (University of Namibia)

Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa (University of Zambia)


Recent publication –

Kennedy Mkutu Agade, David M. Anderson, Klerkson Lugusa and Evelyne Atieno Owino (2022). ‘Water Governance, Institutions and Conflicts in the Maasai Rangelands’, Journal of Environment and Development, Online First (September 2022)


During the summer, a documentary film was made based on my research. I was consultant and writer on the programme. Rogan Productions made the film, and it was shown on Channel 4, in the Secret Histories series, on Sunday 14 August 2022. The film is entitled A Very British Way of TortureLink opens in a new window. The film was widely reviewed, and received overwhelmingly favourable comments – even from those newspapers that you might think would oppose such a film. In early November, the film will also be shown on Al Jazeera Investigates, and after that it will be available internationally online.