by Annette A. LaRocco
Ohio University Press, 2024
Cloth: 978-0-89680-333-6 | Paper: 978-0-89680-334-3 | eISBN: 978-0-89680-335-0
Library of Congress Classification TD171.5.B55
Dewey Decimal Classification 363.70096883

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
This case study of Botswana focuses on the state-building qualities of biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, Annette A. LaRocco argues that discourses and practices related to biodiversity conservation are essential to state building in the postcolonial era. These discourses and practices invoke the ways the state exerts authority over people, places, and resources; enacts and remakes territorial control; crafts notions of ideal citizenship and identity; and structures economic relationships at the local, national, and global levels. The book’s key innovation is its conceptualization of the “conservation estate,” a term most often used as an apolitical descriptor denoting land set aside for the purpose of conservation. LaRocco argues that this description is inadequate and proposes a novel and much-needed alternative definition that is tied to its political elements. The components of conservation—control over land, policing of human behavior, and structuring of the authority that allows or disallows certain subjectivities—render conservation a political phenomenon that can be analyzed separately from considerations of “nature” or “wildlife.” In doing so, it addresses a gap in the scholarship of rural African politics, which focuses overwhelmingly on productive agrarian dynamics and often fails to recognize that land nonuse can be as politically significant and wide reaching as land use. Botswana is an ideal empirical case study upon which to base these theoretical claims. With 39 percent of its land set aside for conservation, Botswana is home to large populations of wildlife, particularly charismatic megafauna, such as the largest herd of elephants on the continent. Utilizing more than two hundred interviews, participant observation, and document analysis, this book examines a series of conservation policies and their reception by people living on the conservation estate. These phenomena include securitized antipoaching enforcement, a national hunting ban (2014–19), restrictions on using wildlife products, forced evictions from conservation areas, limitations on mobility and freedom of movement, the political economy of Botswana’s wildlife tourism industry, and the conservation of globally important charismatic megafauna species.

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