The University of Arizona

From colonial fortresses to neoliberal landscapes in Northern Tanzania: a biopolitical ecology of wildlife conservation

Jevgeniy Bluwstein


Drawing on critical debates in political ecology and biopolitics, the article develops a "biopolitical ecology of conservation" to study historical shifts in how human and nonhuman lives come to be valued in an asymmetric way. Tanzania and the so-called Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem illustrate how these biopolitical shifts became entangled with conservation interventions and broader visions of development throughout colonial and post-colonial history. Colonial efforts to balance seemingly competing domains of human and nonhuman species through spatial separation gave way to the development of the post-colonial nation through the nurturing of its wildlife population. This shift from human-nonhuman incompatibility towards human dependency on wildlife and biodiversity conservation culminated in the contemporary biopolitical ecology and geography of landscape conservation. Landscape conservation seeks to entangle human and nonhuman species. Through conservation, human populations are rearranged and fixed in time and space to allow wildlife to roam free across unbounded spaces. This conservation governmentality is tied to global environmentalist concerns and political economies of neoliberal conservation, as well as to a domestic agenda of tourism-based economic growth. It secures land tenure for some, while imposing a biopolitical sacrifice on the rural population as a whole. This forecloses alternative rural futures for a land-dependent and increasingly land-deprived population.

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