"Should I stay or should I go?" Experiences of slow violence in a South African national park
Tibor Böhm (University of Vienna)
Paper short abstract:
The KwaDapha community lives inside the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. While its inhabitants are no longer forcefully removed from the park, restrictions on subsistence and denial of infrastructure can be seen as a form of slow violence that leaves them with little choice but to move away on their own.
Paper long abstract:
Ironically, not only the destruction of biodiversity, but also certain attempts of its protection may constitute environments of slow violence. Taking up an example from a South African national park, I argue that conservation regimes which are based on an understanding of nature and culture as a binary opposition tend to endanger the livelihoods of local people. Nixon (2011) highlights South Africa's difficult colonial and apartheid conservation histories which have created racialized ecologies that still pose a challenge to the conception of protected areas today. Based on extensive anthropological fieldwork, this paper focuses on the community of KwaDapha which lives within the boundaries of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. While, during apartheid times, many inhabitants of KwaDapha experienced forceful removal from their homes in the name of conservation, several families resisted eviction and remained inside the park. Still today, the presence of local people doesn't comply with common conservationists' imaginations of untouched nature and threatens the sale of this very imagination to paying tourists. Thus, conservation authorities severely restrict local forms of subsistence such as farming, fishing or hunting and hinder the development of any kind of infrastructure which fundamentally endangers local livelihoods. I argue that, while it is regarded as inappropriate to forcefully remove people from protected areas in post-apartheid South Africa, severe restrictions on subsistence and denial of infrastructure can be interpreted as a form of slow violence that leaves the community of KwaDapha little choice but to move out of the park on their own.
Environments and infrastructures of slow violence