Violent Natures: From Coercive Conservation to Climate Change in Africa

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Cassie HAYS , Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA
Since the colonial era, African natures—both external landscapes and internal human dispositions—have been constructed as violent via the parallel ideologies of wildlife conservation and climate change. Both address the human impact on, responsibility for, and stewardship of the environment through the lens of violent natures. During the colonial era in East Africa, ‘natives’ were relegated to specific areas, their lands usurped for white settlement and the conservation of dangerous wildlife. Today, conservationists continue to violently evict residents of East and Southern Africa from apparently precarious landscapes. In colonial and contemporary conservation, both ‘native’ and nature appear unruly and potentially violent. Under the ideology of climate change, as well, poor, non-white populations usually bear the brunt of catastrophic natural (or unnatural) disasters at the same time that they are blamed for contributing to the underlying environmental causes of such events. African environments and peoples are therefore constructed as inherently violent and in need of external intervention via the rhetoric of both conservation and climate change.

Each system of thought employs science and technology to cast the poverty-stricken, racialized ‘other’ in the role of the enlightened noble conservationist; evil instigator of anti-conservationist or climate change-inducing practices; or victim of the violent environments engendered by conservation and climate change. These roles depend, at a basic theoretical level, on the characterization of ‘native,’ nature, or both ‘native’ and nature, as violent. “Violent Natures” thus explores the racialization of nature by connecting the parallel stories of conservation and climate change in Africa.