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The politics of mourning in conservation conflicts: the (un)grievability of life and less-than-human geographies

Akampurira, Emmanuel and Marijnen, Esther (2024) The politics of mourning in conservation conflicts: the (un)grievability of life and less-than-human geographies. Political Geography, 108. ISSN 0962-6298

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2023.103031


Accounts of conservation conflicts often reveal that people living around protected areas feel like their lives are less valued than animals' lives —they are confined to ‘less-than-human geographies’. Recent literature on necropolitical ecology illustrates how such geographies were created and maintained by the state, which holds the power to decide over life and death in and around conservation areas. This paper integrates Judith Butler's politics of mourning into necropolitical ecology to interrogate which lives are considered grievable and which ones are not in conservation landscapes. It focuses on two vignettes of violent human-carnivore interactions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, western Uganda: the poisoning of allegedly 11 (but actually three) lions and the killing of a baby girl by a leopard. Both incidents happened in the park's condoned fishing villages, where historically marginalised Basongora pastoralists have been confined to live since the park's creation. We examine how the lost lives —of humans and animals— are publicly mourned and which lives are actually considered lost. We show how the politics of mourning in violent human-wildlife encounters goes beyond the (colonial-)state; rather, the unequal distribution of precarity is entrenched by a range of public authorities (e.g., (social) media, (I)NGOs, and politicians). This is, in part, because sovereignty in conservation territories has become transnationalised as post-colonial states allow international NGOs to carve out their own zones of influence. This coloniality of power influences human-carnivore relations and reifies racialised conservation spaces as less-than-human geographies.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: J Political Science
H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2023 11:42
Last Modified: 20 May 2024 17:30

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