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Indigenous ontologies and nature conservation initiatives in Southern Africa 
Ute Dieckmann (University of Cologne)
Kletus Likuwa (University of Namibia)
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Kletus Likuwa (University of Namibia)
Format :
Streams :
Anthropology (x) Conservation & Land Governance (y)
Wednesday 31 May, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

This panel intends to explore the role and importance of indigenous ontologies in relation to nature conservation efforts in Southern Africa's past, present, and future.

Long Abstract:

Through the creation of protected areas, a specific form of nature conservation found its way to Southern Africa during the colonial period. The ‘fortress conservation’ model rearranged the colonial territories through the separation of humans from nature; local people were evicted from their lands. The model was based on a particular anthropocentric ontology entailing strict Cartesian dualisms.

The post-colonial countries had to find ways to deal with the colonial legacy of fortress conservation and developed new approaches to nature conservation taking local populations into account. Community-based conservation came into being. Although the new approaches aim to overcome the strict spatial nature-culture divide, they are still grounded in a particular (anthropocentric) ontology. Recognizing and including indigenous relational ontologies could be an important step in the decolonization of nature conservation on the subcontinent and contribute to environmental and cognitive justice.

In line with the Political Ontology framework promoted by Blaser, de la Cadena, Burman and others, this panel invites contributions engaging with ontological considerations in the context of nature conservation past, present, and future politics and practices in Southern Africa. Contributions could either

• analyse empirical studies of cases where indigenous ontologies were excluded from or found their way into policies of nature conservation;

• provide theoretical contributions on indigenous ontologies via-à-vis community-based conservation;

• suggest possible paths for the integration of indigenous ontologies in Southern African nature conservation policies and practices.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -