Towards a modern history of Gondwanaland

by Alison Bashford, Pratik Chakrabarti and Jarrod Hore

30 Sep 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Number of pages
22 (pp. 5-26)

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Abstract: Gondwanaland was a southern mega-continent that began to break up 180 million years ago. This article explores Gondwanaland’s modern history, its unexpected political and cultural purchase since the 1880s. Originating with geological and palaeontological research in the Gond region of Central India, ‘Gondwana’ has become recognisable and useful, especially in settler colonial contexts. This prospectus sets out a program for a highly unusual ‘transnational’ project, involving scholars of India, Australia, Antarctica, southern Africa and South America. Unpredictably across the five continents of former Gondwanaland, the term itself signals depth of time and place across the spectrum of Indigenous land politics, coal-based extractive politics, and, paradoxically, nationalist environmental politics. All kinds of once-living Gondwanaland biota deliver us fossil fuels today – the ‘gifts of Gondwana’ some geologists call southern hemisphere coal, gas, petroleum – and so the modern history of Gondwanaland is also a substantive history of the Anthropocene.

Keywords: Gondwanaland, deep history, geopolitics, Aboriginality, environmental history, Anthropocene, coal.

Article posted to the Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 6 (Environmental History)

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