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Struggles over conservation space: Social justice in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa

Hansen, Melissa LU (2014) In Lund Dissertations in Sustainability Science 7.
Abstract (Swedish)
Popular Abstract in English

“We are not free in this area.”



This is what the iNduna, a traditional leader at KwaDapha, shared with me when we first met in August 2011. KwaDapha is a small rural community at Bhanga Nek, Kosi Bay, in northern KwaZulu-Natal/Maputaland – one of the most scenic areas on the South African coastline. Kosi Bay falls within the Coastal Forest Reserve section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a state-led ‘development for conservation’ project, and UNESCO World Heritage site. The iNduna was referring to conflicts over conservation space, since the proclamation of the park in 2000. Conflicts over fencing have led to local people ignoring rules for access, cutting fences and even... (More)
Popular Abstract in English

“We are not free in this area.”



This is what the iNduna, a traditional leader at KwaDapha, shared with me when we first met in August 2011. KwaDapha is a small rural community at Bhanga Nek, Kosi Bay, in northern KwaZulu-Natal/Maputaland – one of the most scenic areas on the South African coastline. Kosi Bay falls within the Coastal Forest Reserve section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a state-led ‘development for conservation’ project, and UNESCO World Heritage site. The iNduna was referring to conflicts over conservation space, since the proclamation of the park in 2000. Conflicts over fencing have led to local people ignoring rules for access, cutting fences and even burning down gates – illustrating local concerns with delimited access to natural resources inside the park. Local people, who have been engaged in unauthorized tourism development at KwaDapha, have been faced with both civil and criminal court action taken by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority. This thesis discusses social justice in protected area conservation in South Africa, through a focus on state power in its relational engagement with local space. Ultimately, processes that help to explain why the South African government is not living up to the promise of social justice in protected area conservation – are explored. (Less)
Abstract
In the past several decades under a growing influence of ecological modernisation, various assumed ‘win-win’ approaches to protected area conservation and poverty alleviation have been introduced all over the world, especially in resource-rich developing countries. Yet protected area conservation is an inherently political process, and the goals are often not achieved. There are concerns about competing social outcomes, as well as debates over contrary epistemologies. Drawing on a constructivist and critical research approach, I discuss the politics of protected area conservation in South Africa, with a focus on social justice. I do this through an analysis of conflicts over conservation space in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (IWP) in... (More)
In the past several decades under a growing influence of ecological modernisation, various assumed ‘win-win’ approaches to protected area conservation and poverty alleviation have been introduced all over the world, especially in resource-rich developing countries. Yet protected area conservation is an inherently political process, and the goals are often not achieved. There are concerns about competing social outcomes, as well as debates over contrary epistemologies. Drawing on a constructivist and critical research approach, I discuss the politics of protected area conservation in South Africa, with a focus on social justice. I do this through an analysis of conflicts over conservation space in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (IWP) in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The IWP is a ‘conservation for development’ project and UNESCO World Heritage site, managed by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority (IWPA) on behalf of the state. The IWPA seeks to combine the conservation of World Heritage with poverty alleviation and local economic development, through private eco-tourism.

My theoretical approach starts off with a view of protected areas as spatial phenomena. I tackle the analysis with inspiration from Henri Lefebvre’s theory on the production of space. Through an examination of top-down political economic processes, I ask whether conflicts over conservation space arise because of conflicting norms that underlie conservation in protected areas. I interrogate the ways in which conservation influences the freedom, or capabilities, of local users and inhabitants, to achieve ‘beings’ and ‘doings’ (Sen 1999), according to their values and norms. Examining bottom-up initiatives from local actors, I focus on reactions to the enclosure of conservation space, in terms of everyday life, agency and resistance.

The findings of my research show that global and national norms of protected area conservation that are imposed upon local lived space, have negative consequences for the freedom of local inhabitants. Enclosure in the IWP plays out in two ways: Firstly, the proclamation of the park by the state has resulted in the consolidation of previously disparate areas of land, into one protected and contested area. Secondly, institutional enclosure has been reinforced through a strengthened legal framework for conservation – and a global impetus for the conservation of World Heritage. There have been both civil and criminal cases taken against conservation transgressors in the IWP.

Ultimately, local inhabitants have been alienated from land, as well as from management practices in the IWP. This juxtaposes efforts to restore local land and resource rights against national and global interest in conservation. The implementation of global conservation through market mechanisms is particularly problematic where there is structural inequality with historical roots, such as in South Africa. Taking a view of protected areas as spatial phenomena allows a nuanced recognition of the relationship between land, the environment and political rights, an important theme in the emerging field of Sustainability Science. Although developed in a South African context, the analytical framework is transferrable to cases elsewhere in the world. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Associate professor Nustad, Knut, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Agency, capabilities, human development, the politics of sustainability, the production of space, protected areas, rights and resistance, South Africa, struggles
in
Lund Dissertations in Sustainability Science
volume
7
pages
188 pages
publisher
Lund University
defense location
Geocentrum II, room Pangea, Sölvegatan 12, Lund
defense date
2014-02-27 10:15
ISBN
978-91-979832-4-2
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
f5fddac5-f2b1-4750-a3ef-7f6962f952cb (old id 4283724)
date added to LUP
2014-02-04 13:26:08
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:10
@phdthesis{f5fddac5-f2b1-4750-a3ef-7f6962f952cb,
  abstract     = {In the past several decades under a growing influence of ecological modernisation, various assumed ‘win-win’ approaches to protected area conservation and poverty alleviation have been introduced all over the world, especially in resource-rich developing countries. Yet protected area conservation is an inherently political process, and the goals are often not achieved. There are concerns about competing social outcomes, as well as debates over contrary epistemologies. Drawing on a constructivist and critical research approach, I discuss the politics of protected area conservation in South Africa, with a focus on social justice. I do this through an analysis of conflicts over conservation space in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (IWP) in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The IWP is a ‘conservation for development’ project and UNESCO World Heritage site, managed by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority (IWPA) on behalf of the state. The IWPA seeks to combine the conservation of World Heritage with poverty alleviation and local economic development, through private eco-tourism. <br/><br>
My theoretical approach starts off with a view of protected areas as spatial phenomena. I tackle the analysis with inspiration from Henri Lefebvre’s theory on the production of space. Through an examination of top-down political economic processes, I ask whether conflicts over conservation space arise because of conflicting norms that underlie conservation in protected areas. I interrogate the ways in which conservation influences the freedom, or capabilities, of local users and inhabitants, to achieve ‘beings’ and ‘doings’ (Sen 1999), according to their values and norms. Examining bottom-up initiatives from local actors, I focus on reactions to the enclosure of conservation space, in terms of everyday life, agency and resistance.<br/><br>
The findings of my research show that global and national norms of protected area conservation that are imposed upon local lived space, have negative consequences for the freedom of local inhabitants. Enclosure in the IWP plays out in two ways: Firstly, the proclamation of the park by the state has resulted in the consolidation of previously disparate areas of land, into one protected and contested area. Secondly, institutional enclosure has been reinforced through a strengthened legal framework for conservation – and a global impetus for the conservation of World Heritage. There have been both civil and criminal cases taken against conservation transgressors in the IWP. <br/><br>
Ultimately, local inhabitants have been alienated from land, as well as from management practices in the IWP. This juxtaposes efforts to restore local land and resource rights against national and global interest in conservation. The implementation of global conservation through market mechanisms is particularly problematic where there is structural inequality with historical roots, such as in South Africa. Taking a view of protected areas as spatial phenomena allows a nuanced recognition of the relationship between land, the environment and political rights, an important theme in the emerging field of Sustainability Science. Although developed in a South African context, the analytical framework is transferrable to cases elsewhere in the world.},
  author       = {Hansen, Melissa},
  isbn         = {978-91-979832-4-2},
  keyword      = {Agency,capabilities,human development,the politics of sustainability,the production of space,protected areas,rights and resistance,South Africa,struggles},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {188},
  publisher    = {Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  series       = {Lund Dissertations in Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Struggles over conservation space: Social justice in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa},
  volume       = {7},
  year         = {2014},
}