Producing elephant commodities for 'conservation hunting' in Namibian communal-area conservancies

Lee John Hewitson (Lead / Corresponding author), Sian Sullivan

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Abstract

Namibia's internationally acclaimed CBNRM program depends to a large extent on revenues generated from the trophy hunting of wild animals. The model is an important example of an increasingly 'neoliberal' global policy framework as applied to biodiversity conservation, its market-based approach and attendant socio-ecological effects having received in-depth engagement and critique from a political ecology perspective. Yet there remains a lack of detailed research concerning how these programs and their value frames are operationalized in practice. The article attempts to advance this literature through an empirical exploration of practices undertaken by diverse actors that work to produce and extract value from 'wild' natures, specifically elephants for 'conservation hunting' in Namibian communal-area conservancies. Conceptually, the article also contributes to an emerging body of work seeking to 'ecologise' political ecology, exploring the co-optation of lively elephants and other beyond-human entities in the production of economic value. 'Following' the elephant's interactions with other living entities, the article reveals the (non)human work and social practices that together 'labor' to produce commodified elephants that can be killed as trophies. We argue that 'undesirable encounters' such as crop raiding by elephants are both indicative of unequal power relations amongst CBNRM stakeholders and central to (re)producing dominant (neoliberal) value frames. The animal's spontaneous activities are co-opted into technocratic governance practices that legitimize the killing of elephants on environmental and economic grounds. In opening up the contested, contingent, and more-than-human nature of these social-ecological relations we also hope to contribute to possibilities for imagining more equitable and ecologically resilient conservation futures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Political Ecology
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • CBNRM
  • elephants
  • more-than-human
  • neoliberal conservation
  • political ecology
  • Trophy hunting
  • value
  • wild commodities

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