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Laura J. Mitchell

Associate Professor, History
School of Humanities

Ph.D., UCLA, 2001, African History

M.S., Georgetown University, 1993, Foreign Service

M.A., Georgetown University, 1993, European History

A.B., University of California, Berkeley, 1986, History & French

Phone: (949) 824-6521
Fax: (949) 824-2865
Email: mitchell@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
243 Krieger Hall
Mail Code: 3275
Irvine, CA 92697

picture of Laura J. Mitchell

Sub-Saharan Africa; South Africa; Dutch East India Company; colonialism; environment; labor & slavery; family & household formation
URL Laura Mitchell UCI History Profile
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, visiting Maitre de Conference, 2008
American Historical Association Gutenberg-e Prize, 2004
NEH Summer Institute: Indian Ocean, Cradle of Globalization, 2002
UCLA Chancellor's Fellowship, 1999-2000
Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, 1997-98
UCLA Department of History Fellowship, 1993-1997
Title VI, Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship for Zulu, 1995-97
My research examines colonial interactions in South Africa during the long eighteenth century, exploring questions of land tenure, slavery and other bonded labor, environmental issues, gender, sexuality, and trans-regional networks of exchange.

I am particularly concerned with situating the development of colonial society at the Cape of Good Hope within the broader context of Dutch East India Company exchange networks. Lying at the confluence of two oceans, the Cape was a bridging point between Europe and Asia. Inland, indigenous hunters and herders engaged in both local and long-distance social and economic exchanges across Southern Africa. Thus colonial life emerged from the competing influences of three continents, juxtaposing multiple legal, religious, economic, social, and administrative traditions. These tumultuous circumstances provide fertile terrain for historical inquiry.

My first book examines conditions of agrarian society in the Cedarberg, a region which remained on the frontier of Western Cape colonial settlement for over a century. "Belongings" has several goals: 1) to delineate the mechanisms and social meanings of land tenure; 2) to elaborate the dynamics of labor relations in an economy based on coercion; 3) to understand how people situated themselves in the landscape; 4) to explore the theoretical and methodological implications of the confrontation between “historic” and “pre-historic,” working to integrate analysis of independent Khoisan people within a multi-racial, multi-ethnic narrative of the South African past.

My current research deepens my exploration of the relationships between communities and the landscape they inhabit. I am collecting and analyzing artistic renderings of the natural world produced in southern Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I seek to understand the meanings ascribed to the environment by Africans, colonists, and visitors--pushing environmental history to reveal more than a materialist interpretation of contested resource use.
Publications Panorama: A World History. With Ross Dunn. (McGraw-Hill, 2014)
  Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A Companion Reader, with Kenneth L. Pomeranz and James B. Given. W.W. Norton, 2011
  The Pre-Industrial Cape in the Twenty-First Century, special issue of the South African Historical Journal 62:3 (2010), co-edited with Gerald Groenewald
  Belongings: Property, Family and Identity in Colonial South Africa, An Exploration of Frontiers 1725 - c. 1830 (Columbia University Press, 2009)
read the book on-line: www.gutenberg-e.org/mitchell
  “Belonging: Family Formation and Settler Identity in the VOC Cape,” South African Historical Journal 59 (Dec. 2007): 103-125.
  “Belonging: Kinship and Identity at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1795,” in Contingent Lives: Social Identity and Material Culture in the VOC World, edited by Nigel Worden, 247-265. University of Cape Town Press, 2007.
  “‘This is the Mark of the Widow’: Domesticity, and Frontier Conquest in Colonial South Africa,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, 28: 1 & 2 (Spring 2007): 47-76.
  A) The Kloof to Overberg B) Panorama of Hottentots Holland C) The Plaats Vergenoegd (Historical commentary on eighteenth-century drawings of the Western Cape, South Africa). In The World of Jan Brandes, 1742-180: Drawings of a Dutch Traveller in Batavia, Ceylon and Southern Africa. Edited by Remco Raben and Max de Bruijn, 366-367 & 373-380. Amsterdam: Rijskmuseum, 2004.
  "Material Culture and Cadastral Data: Documenting the Cedarberg Frontier, South Africa, 1725-1740," in Sources and Methods in African History, ed. Toyin Falola and Christian Jennings, 16-32 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2003, paperback 2004).
  "Traces in the Landscape: Hunters, Herder and Farmers on the Cedarberg Frontier, South Africa,1725-95" Journal of African HIstory 43 (2002), 431-450.
Grants ACLS/NEH/SSCR International Area Studies Fellowship, 2005-06
UC President's Research Fellowship in Humanities, 2005-06
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, 2008-11
American Historical Association
African Studies Association
World History Association
Forum on European Expansion and Global Interaction
Other Experience Assistant Professor
University of Texas, San Antoino 2000—2002

Link to this profile http://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=5035
Last updated 10/23/2013