Following Elephants: Assembling Nature Knowledge, Values and Conservation Spaces in Namibia’s Zambezi Region
thesisposted on 12.11.2018 by Lee J. Hewitson
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
This thesis aims to explore the production of nature knowledges and values in the context of Namibian Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). In that respect, it is a response to calls for in-depth research into the lived experience of CBNRM, and this study attends to those situated knowledges and values crucial to the programme’s success. It does so by adopting a case study approach in Kwandu Conservancy, in Namibia’s Zambezi Region. The conceptual approach embraces the collaborative potential between political ecology studies that have critiqued dominant constructions of (neoliberal) natures, and posthuman approaches adopting a more expansive view of socio-natures. As part of a ‘more than-human ethnography’, this involves ‘following’ African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in order to trace their relational connections with other (non)humans as they assemble space. Through these affective interactions relational knowledges and values are produced. These nature-culture ontologies do not inhere in elephants or other ‘things’, but are processual and formed in open-ended encounters between (non)humans. Relational interactions between humans, elephants and other lively things (de)territorialise topographical space and (de)stabilise neoliberal governmentalities. The study therefore emphasises the role of agentic nonhumans in (re)assembling CBNRM spaces that are contingent and fractious, offering hope to political ecologists seeking to challenge capitalist nature-culture framings. Relatedly, the fluid, multiple, and provisional socio-natures assembled also necessitate a re-thinking of conservation policy and practice. As such, the study recommends CBNRM practitioners embrace this generative ontology, nurturing the open-ended relational values that humans and nonhumans produce together in order to assemble more equitable and ecologically healthy socio-natural futures.