Anjuli Webster

Anjuli Webster


B.A. University of Pretoria
MA. University of Dar es Salaam
M.A. University of Witwatersrand

Research Interests

Precolonial and colonial southern Africa
Imperial borderlands
Environmental history


"Fluid Empires: Histories of Environment and Sovereignty in southern Africa, 1750-1900"

Faculty Advisors


I have trained and taught in history and anthropology in South Africa, Tanzania, and the United States. My research and teaching centre southern Africa as a world-historical location in regional and global processes and networks of imperialism, colonialism, and resistance between 1700-1900. Understanding how and why histories of colonial conquest and violence continue to shape contemporary problems is a central concern of my work as a historian.

My dissertation explores transformations in sovereignty and ecology in southern Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. The work is concerned with questions of movement and enclosure. How, for example, did imperial dispossession shape existing flows of migration, political formation, and dissolution? In what ways did enclosure reconfigure existing ecologies, disrupting interspecies relations and networks, and shaping new landscapes and ideas about territorial sovereignty? I argue that inter-imperial disputes between the British and Portuguese empires shaped transformations in African land and waterscapes, forming an environmental foundation for the military, and political economic consolidation of colonial conquest in the unjust wars of colonisation of the late 19th century.

My work draws on English, isiZulu, Afrikaans, French, and Portuguese primary sources to challenge predominant empire and nation-centric approaches to southern African history. I trace the entangled histories of isiNguni migrations, political formations, and dissolutions, enslavement, and the creation of the early colonial order through environmental and infrastructural enclosure and landscaping.

My research has been generously supported by the South African National Research Foundation, the Flanagan Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Halle Institute, the Käte Hamburger global dis:connect research centre, and the Laney Graduate School.

My publications can be found at