This panel focuses on the emergence of concepts of futures of nature in African rural and urban spaces in the post-independence era. It asks how different actors, including states, NGOs and activists, addressed questions concerning the future of nature and how they shaped politics.
The colonisation of nature, and futures of nature, was key to colonialism. Natural sciences and nature conservation were deployed to justify forced removals and dispossessions of land and natural resources. Colonial imaginations about nature as pristine and in need of control impacted on developments of natural spaces, which are necessarily also spaces of culture or "natureculture", and mediated relationships between humans and other organisms. In the post-independence era, numerous concepts of futures of nature emerged and contested colonial understandings of nature and competed against each other. African governments formally took control over institutions such as national parks and national botanical gardens, and new state organisations took over the management of nature. These developments gave rise to imaginations of new futures of nature, ranging from agriculture to tourism, biodiversity conservation and mixed-usage settings. Further, international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF, and NGOs such as the IUCN and WWF, developed policies concerning futures of nature. Environmental activists imagined futures of nature concurrently with alternative social futures. Research has so far focused more on politics nature in rural than in urban areas. Africa's rapid urbanisation makes the question of futures of nature in cities a pressing one, and in the last two decades the scholarship on "urban green spaces" increased. This panel aims to unite rural and urban scholarship and focus on the emergence of concepts of futures of nature in African rural and urban spaces in the post-independence era, and the politics of nature that evolved therein.