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Emmanuel Kreike

Princeton University
Environcide and the Materiality of Memory Sites in Post-WWII (Counter)Insurgency Wars in the Global South
01 September 2022 -
28 February 2023

"Jean d’Alembert" Chair supported by the University of Paris-Saclay and the Paris IAS 

Emmanuel Kreike is a professor of history at Princeton University specializing in African and Global Comparative Environmental History. His focus on the war-society-environment nexus, studying the lived experiences of conflict-caused destruction of lives, livelihoods, and ways of life, population displacement (refugees, forced removals, the slave trade) and the challenges of post-conflict physical and conceptual reconstruction of societies and livable environments. His main source is oral history, through oral history interviews or captured indirectly through surveys, interrogations, court evidence or other testimonies or reports. He recently served a second term as the director of Princeton’s African Studies Program.  He held fellowships from the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) and the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Princeton University Council of the Humanities.

Research interests

History of War, Environment, and Society; Digital & Spatial History; History of Rural Life, Agriculture, Forestry; Oral History.

Environcide and the Materiality of Memory Sites in Post-WWII (Counter)Insurgency Wars in the Global South

In such modern counterinsurgency conflicts as the Indonesian, Vietnam, Cuban, Algerian, Angolan, Mozambican, Namibian, and South African liberation wars the colonial security forces typically targeted the villages, farms, fields, water sources, and other environmental infrastructure that the insurgents and the rural populations depended on for their lives, livelihoods, and ways of life. This exposed the populations to famine and disease and sometimes even ecocide and genocide.  These wars were depicted as “small wars” (guerilla wars) and as taking place in the Bush or the Jungle although, for example, much of the fighting in Vietnam took place in the Mekong Delta which was a very thickly populated region filled with villages, farms, irrigated rice fields, and plantations. Because these conflicts were defined as primitive wars (as opposed to conventional regular wars) and fought in Nature or wilderness, the Laws of War and International Human Rights Law were often thought to be not applicable because they were meant to prevent the destruction of human artifact and human culture and not Nature and natural resources. International environmental law is meant to prevent such destruction but there never has been a successful prosecution of war-time environmental destruction.

Key publications

Kreike, Emmanuel, Re-Creating Eden: Land Use, Environment, and Society in Southern Angola and Northern Namibia (Heinemann, 2004).  

Kreike, Emmanuel, Environmental Infrastructure in African History: Examining the Myth of Natural Resource Management in Namibia (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Kreike, Emmanuel, Scorched Earth: Environmental Warfare as a Crime against Humanity and Nature (Princeton University Press, January 2021).

Contemporary period (1789-…)