Ideologies of Nature in the Lives and Worldviews of African ConservationistsEPA Grant Number: U915613
Title: Ideologies of Nature in the Lives and Worldviews of African Conservationists
Investigators: Garland, Elizabeth C.
Institution: University of Chicago
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 1999 through December 31, 2002
Project Amount: $104,416
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Social Sciences , Economics and Decision Sciences , Academic Fellowships
The objectives of this research project are to: (1) investigate the attitudes toward nature held by African wildlife professionals (park wardens, rangers, game scouts, government officials, and nongovernmental organization staff members); and (2) explore the role such attitudes play in these people's personal and professional lives.
Scholarship on the social and cultural dimensions of wildlife conservation in Africa has focused largely on the effects of conservation policies on farmers and pastoralists in rural areas. Writing from a critical perspective, a number of scholars have documented the ways in which rural Africans have been dispossessed of their rights to land, water, and other key resources in the name of conservation. Academics with a more applied bent, in contrast, have worked to identify policies that will advance conservationist objectives (as in the recent flurry of writing on "community conservation" programs); but these scholars, too, have concentrated on the effects of conservation on so-called local people-the villagers or herders upon whom conservation policies are meant to act.
A focus on rural, subsistence-level African people has tended to obscure the emergence of a growing class of Africans who promote conservationist objectives and create and implement conservation policy in the field. Often dismissed as tools of a neo-colonial, Western conservation agenda, or maligned as incompetent or corrupt "weak links" in the implementation of conservation programs, these African conservationists have not been adequately conceptualized by scholars from either critical or proconservation perspectives. As they are arguably the very people upon whom the viability of Africa's wildlife populations most directly depends, an empirical investigation of their worldviews and self-conceptions should provide an important supplement to existing debates.
Research has centered on the College of African Wildlife Management (CAWM) at Mweka, Tanzania, which has trained Africans who are interested in pursuing careers in wildlife conservation for 40 years. Indepth ethnographic fieldwork among the students and staff at CAWM was combined with participant observation in all aspects of the life of the College, in the capacity of visiting lecturer in the College's Training Division. In addition, a "snowballing" research technique was used to identify a wider study population of African conservation professionals employed in Tanzania's national park service, government wildlife service, and safari tourism industry. Historical materials have been collected as well, tracing the role of the national wildlife sector in the context of Tanzanian decolonization and postindependent social and economic policy regimes, to locate the perspectives of the study subjects within a broader national context.