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 Prof. Shirley Brooks

Position: Head of Department (Geography, Environmental Studies & Tourism)
Department: Department of Geography
Faculty: Faculty of Arts
Qualifications: BA, BA (Hons) University of Natal;  MA, PhD (Queen’s University, Canada)
Tel: +27 21 959-2425
Fax: +27 21 959-3422


 After completing her undergraduate degree and a BA (Hons) in History at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, Shirley Brooks received an Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship enabling her to embark on postgraduate studies abroad. She chose to study historical/cultural geography at Queen’s University in Canada, where she was part of a dynamic group of scholars engaged with the southern African region.

On her return to South Africa, Shirley taught Human Geography at the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal (later the University of KwaZulu-Natal) in Durban from the mid-1990s until 2009, when she joined the Geography Department at the University of the Free State.  In 2012, she joined the University of the Western Cape as Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies.

Shirley Brooks’s research interests lie at the interface between people, place and nature. She has close links to the sub-discipline of environmental history, as well as a substantial interest in (post)colonial land issues.  In her doctoral thesis she presented a critical historical geography of the famous Umfolozi-Hluhluwe park in northern KwaZulu-Natal, showing how this ‘space of nature’ was materially and discursively produced and reproduced over a period of sixty years.
Together with her colleague Dr. Marja Spierenburg of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Shirley Brooks is the leader of a large research project on the politics and social consequences of private game farming in the South African countryside. This project combines her interests in critical conservation studies and land issues, especially land reform.  A number of Masters and doctoral students from South Africa and the Netherlands have completed their studies as part of this project.

Shirley also has a strong interest in recent work in Human Geography which problematizes the nature/culture divide in everyday life and academic practice.  She is interested in the emerging sub-discipline of ‘animal geographies’ which takes seriously the problematic of the non-human, challenging the discipline’s traditional focus on human beings.

Shirley Brooks is an experienced lecturer with many years’ teaching experience in Human Geography. This includes first year courses introducing students to the discipline, higher-level undergraduate courses examining Southern African landscapes and land issues, as well as graduate-level courses looking at postcolonial geographies and critical issues around nature, society and conservation. 

Shirley served on the editorial board of the journal Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa from 2003 to 2011 and is currently a corresponding editor.  She is a Research Fellow of the African Studies Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands. Her areas of research interest include: Historical geography; Cultural geographies of nature; Environmental history; Political ecology; Critical conservation studies; Postcolonial land issues;  Landscapes of ecotourism; Animal geographies.





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