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Accepted Paper:

Enjoying extinction: Philanthrocapitalism, jouissance, and excessive ‘environmentourism’ in the South African rhino poaching crisis  
Stasja Koot (Wageningen University)

Paper short abstract:

The South African rhino poaching crisis has grown rapidly, leading to public outcries that the rhino is close to extinction. This leads to a specific type of luxurious tourism in which tourists can 'enjoy' (through fascination, jouissance) the fight against rhino poaching physically and financially.

Paper long abstract:

Since the end of the 2000s, the rhino poaching crisis has grown rapidly in and around Kruger National Park, South Africa, often leading to public outcries that the rhino is close to extinction. This discourse of extinction is also articulated at the luxurious tourist lodges on private nature reserves to the west of Kruger that attract wealthy tourists. In fact, some lodges have started initiatives in which tourists can join the fight against rhino poaching physically and financially. These tourist activities share important similarities with ‘philanthrocapitalism’, in which the wealthy ‘enjoy’ providing support for charities to eradicate poverty and to support environmental causes. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and discourse analysis, I explore the political ecology of such high-end ‘environmentourist’ activities, with an emphasis on the translocations of rhinos from South Africa to neighboring Botswana. These rhino translocations accompanied by tourists, and such philanthropic environmental tourist activities more generally, I argue, are based on a reductionist articulation of the rhino poaching crisis, de-politicizing it from its socio-economic and historical context, while legitimizing privatized, luxurious tourism. Moreover, such excessive ‘environmentourism’ allows accessible ways for wealthy tourists to enjoy ‘doing good’, because tourists can find their ‘jouissance’ in these activities: jouissance is a particular type of enjoyment that goes beyond ‘pure’, conventional enjoyment; it simultaneously includes fascination and excitement for the dark and horror sides of things, such as poached rhinos and the idea that these animals are at the brink of extinction. Pursuing jouissance, wealthy tourists are continually pulled into patterns of excessive consumption as their responsibility of, and within, environmentourism, thereby supporting a local and global politics of enmity.

Panel Exti11b
Reconsidering an anthropology of endings II
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -