This book grew out of a dissertation submitted to Stanford University’s De-
partment of Anthropology, but the ideas go back further to my first trip to
South Africa as an undergraduate studying geography and environmental
studies at Dartmouth College. As with most research projects, Steeped in Heri-
tage emerged accidentally. I had initially planned to study in Zimbabwe, but
a series of political upheavals led to a last- m inute switch to South Africa. My
time at the University of Pretoria began a fifteen-year engagement with the
country and introduced me to a key part of South African hospitality: rooibos
tea. When I entered my host family’s home for the first time, I was met with
the words: “What tea would you like? English or rooibos?” I asked, “What is
rooibos?” Ironically prescient perhaps, “What is rooibos?” ultimately became
the subject of an inquiry I would return to over and over during my doctorate
and beyond. After many years and research projects, the answer I uncovered
was far from simple.
I could not begin to give proper thanks to all those who offered support
during each stage of this project. I am deeply in debt to the people of the
rooibos- g rowing region for their time, generosity, hospitality, and patience.
They laughed with — and sometimes at — the Amerikaanse meisie as I negoti-
ated the social and ecological terrain of the rooibos world.
The book would not have been possible without the help of many individ-
uals and institutions. I thank James Ferguson, my graduate adviser at Stanford
University. He provided guidance throughout the research and writing pro-
cess, from grounding my ideas to pushing my theoretical engagements to com-
menting on numerous drafts. My dissertation committee, Liisa Malkki, Paulla
Ebron, and Lynn Meskell, provided invaluable feedback and encouragement.
Through her close readings during a writing seminar, Liisa helped me find my
voice whenever I buried it in academic language.