CfP: Of Life and Landscape: Shifting Biopolitics of ‘More-than-Natural’ Conservation Territories in Sub-Saharan Africa

Dear All,

With apologies for cross-posting, please consider joining the session “Of Life and Landscape: Shifting Biopolitics of ‘More-than-Natural’ Conservation Territories in Sub-Saharan Africa”

Conference:  ‘The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications’, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Conference Date:  28-30 June 2017

Session abstract deadline: 15. January 2017

Session organisers: Jevgeniy Bluwstein (University of Copenhagen) & Connor J. Cavanagh (Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences)

In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, practices of biodiversity conservation have been intimately related to processes of state formation and governance from the intensification of European colonial rule in the late 19th century onward. Initially, state administrations geographically segregated people and non-human ‘nature’ to enable European sport hunting (Neumann 1998; MacKenzie 1988), to facilitate the consumptive enjoyment of ostensibly ‘pristine’ or ‘Edenic’ wilderness (Neumann 1996), as well as to sustain supplies of timber and water for colonial enterprises (Neumann 2001; Cavanagh and Himmelfarb 2015) – all with the effect of alienating vast swathes of land and resources from ‘native’ control. In this sense, histories of conservation and state formation in the region evince an implicitly more-than-human biopolitics, foregrounding concern with how populations could be optimally ruled, their lands and their labour controlled to produce sufficiently profitable returns, but also with how their livelihoods could be protected from wildlife (‘vermin’) as well as from both human and livestock diseases. Likewise, post-colonial states have inherited much of this colonial legacy of coercive land control whilst rolling out new initiatives for further bolstering the conservation of biodiversity through ‘sustainable’ agriculture, biodiversity-based ecotourism, and other forms of apparently ‘green’ economic development.

Crucially, however – and in accordance with the rise of ‘landscape’ approaches to conservation (e.g. Clay 2016) – these initiatives now increasingly unfold at the scale of entire socio-ecological regions, both within and beyond conventional protected areas. Indeed, donors and conservation NGOs now frequently seek to scale up their interventions from an individual park or reserve – or even amalgamations of ‘transfrontier’ reserves (e.g. Büscher 2013) – into landscapes that span entire ‘hybrid’ regions or what we might call ‘more-than-natural’ territories of conservation. Here, the management of protected areas is coupled with that of wildlife corridors or migratory routes, of ‘buffer’ or ‘transition’ zones, as well as of entire agrarian or agro-pastoralist communities in the form of ‘sustainably intensified’, ‘climate smart’, or ‘forest friendly’ livelihood interventions. Differently put, landscapes of conservation have in many ways become new frontiers for both biopolitical and governmental experimentation, suspending and/or reworking previous orders, establishing new and powerful claims to territory (Bluwstein and Lund, in press), and producing novel justifications for which (non)human populations might be ‘made to live’ and which might be marginalized, dispossessed, or ‘let die’ as a consequence of conservation interventions (see also Biermann and Mansfield 2014; Cavanagh and Benjaminsen 2015; Nel 2015).

Accordingly, we invite papers that address the ways in which these shifting efforts to govern both human and non-human populations at the scale of ‘more-than-natural’ conservation landscapes are reworking prevailing forms of biopolitics, political ecologies, and governmentalities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Both empirical/historical and theoretical proposals are welcome. Possible topics and questions might include, but are not limited to:

·         New rationalities and discourses of rural development in the name of landscape conservation
·         New frontiers of landscape conservation
·         Valuations of different forms of human and non-human life under landscape conservation
·         How is biopower exercised in the name of landscape conservation?
·         What are the limits of governmentality in landscape conservation?
·         What types of socio-nature(s) are produced in landscape conservation?
·         How are socio-spatial orders under landscape conservation different from other conservation regimes?
·         Is landscape conservation old wine in new bottles? What is novel about landscape conservation?
·         What kind of institutions, alliances, and subjectivities are produced under and through landscape conservation?
·         What kind of politics, responses, and forms of resistance emerge in the context of landscape conservation?
·         How are human-environment interactions measured and monitored in landscape conservation?

Please send an abstract to Jevgeniy Bluwstein at or Connor Cavanagh at by January 15th, 2017.

For more information about the conference please click here.

All the best,

Connor and Jevgeniy

Biermann, C. & Mansfield, B. 2014. Biodiversity, Purity, and Death: Conservation Biology as Biopolitics. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(2), 257-273. doi:10.1068/d13047p
Bluwstein, J. & Lund, J. F. in press. Territoriality by Conservation in the Selous-Niassa Corridor in Tanzania. World Development. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.09.010
Büscher, B. (2013). Transforming the Frontier: Peace Parks and the Politics of Neoliberal Conservation in Southern Africa. Durham: Duke University Press.
Cavanagh, C. J., & Benjaminsen, T. A. (2015). Guerrilla agriculture? A biopolitical guide to illicit cultivation within an IUCN Category II protected area. Journal of Peasant Studies, 42(3-4), 725-745.
Cavanagh, C. J., & Himmelfarb, D. (2015). “Much in Blood and Money”: Necropolitical Ecology on the Margins of the Uganda Protectorate. Antipode, 47(1), 55-73.
Clay, N. (2016). Producing hybrid forests in the Congo Basin: A political ecology of the landscape approach to conservation. Geoforum, 76, 130-141.
Mackenzie, J. M. 1988. The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation, and British Imperialism, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Nel, A. (2015). The choreography of sacrifice: Market environmentalism, biopolitics and environmental damage. Geoforum, 65, 246-254.
Neumann, R. P. 1998. Imposing Wilderness: Struggles Over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa, University of California Press.
Neumann, R. P. 2001. Africa’s ‘Last Wilderness’: Reordering Space for Political and Economic Control in Colonial Tanzania. Africa, 71(04), 641-665.
Neumann, R. P. (1996). Dukes, earls, and ersatz Edens: aristocratic nature preservationists in colonial Africa. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 14(1), 79-98.

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