Namibian wildlife

Contested wildlife – neglected corporeality: The case of the Namib wild horses (with Robert Pütz, Goethe-University Frankfurt)

Living in Common worlds comprises a permanent struggle of advantaged and disadvantaged actors. Paradoxically, this holds even more, when it comes to objectives of conservation. Their application continuously produces borders between a nature worth conserving and a rather dispensable nature and its parts and members. Territories such as conservation areas confine a spatial fixation of such determinations of nature. However, borders, territories as well as related concepts of nature and wilderness are permanently struggled upon.

Against this background, the case of the wild horses in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in southern Namibia serves as an instructive example. Their struggle for life due to persistent drought and evermore pressure of predatory hyenas is for the Park management the common course of life and death, while representatives of local NGOs and touristic entrepreneurs empathetically claim for human action in order to save the horses from extinction.

We take this case in order to disentangle a conflict that comes with different agendas of what nature is about and what is worth conservation. Moreover, we analyse the postcolonial discourse, which in the case of Namibia this conflict is steeped with. Secondly, we show that actors in the field incorporate conservation as a praxis of bordering nature. Their embodiment of social norms and ethical values, however, leads to inner struggles and frictions with their affective experiences in the course of working with the horses and “caring” for them, sometimes in situations that crave a decision for life or death. We argue that neither established approaches of discourse analysis nor the newer assemblage perspectives sufficiently grasp this circumstance, and we suggest the phenomenological concept of intercorporeality as a promising perspective for understanding Human-animal relations in conservation practice.


The commercialization of wildlife encounter: selling nature to save it? Nature conservation as a market in Namibia (with Olivier Graefe, University of Fribourg)

It is estimated that 80 % of the wildlife in Namibia is now in possession of private game farmers and private parks. Here is good news: The number of elephants tripled since independence in 1990 and Namibia has by now the biggest national population of Black Rhinos while the species was near extinction in the 1980’s. Hence, the devolution of rights over wildlife to private land owners and custodians since the mid-1960 is unmistakably a success in terms of wildlife conservation and growth of animal population. So, what’s biting? At the same time, wildlife conservation has turned into a source of profit and nowadays attracts many actors like private entrepreneurs, companies but also nature conservation NGOs. Competition is fierce. The trade for animals developed immensely not only in form of auctions and sells by catalogue for hunting concessions, trophies and life animals for breeding, but also for touristic wildlife encounter of different kinds in private game reserves. In short, there is a new complexity of commercialization of wildlife going on with yet unidentified implications for humans, nature, and their relationships.

While the political economy of lively commodities, especially price fluctuations of different species are worth own research, our purpose is to understand the potential as well as occurring implications of the commercialization of wildlife from a political-ecological and socionature perspective. Therefore, as a complement to use and exchange value, we employ the concept of encounter value introduced by Donna Haraway (2008) and further developed by Maan Barua (2016).