Situated engagement: a critique of wildlife management and post-colonial discourse
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:57 authored by Sandra Suchet
A review of the literature informed by fieldwork in Australia, Canada, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa is used as the basis of a critique of wildlife management and post-colonial discourse. It is argued that many of the concepts and practices that dominate wildlife management are firmly embedded in Eurocentric epistemologies that are falsely assumed to be universally applicable. This assumption justifies imposition of concepts and practices such as wildlife, management, conservation, development, co-management, community-based natural resource management and traditional ecological knowledge. Although this informs what is seen as a well-intentioned post-colonial discourse, it in fact masks the reimposition of colonising relationships. Critical discussion of what is meant by 'wildlife' and 'management' identifies the beliefs that underlie the concepts and practices of wildlife management and the way they are internally related to colonising processes. Wildlife management, therefore, is constantly at risk of reinforcing colonising relationships, and limiting imaginaries and realities by straight-jacketing thought and action within a 'hall of mirrors' - within the boundaries set by the Eurocentric belief that things are binarised as either society or nature, human or animal, wild or tame/domestic, and must be either conserved or developed through management. Throughout the thesis, glimpses into multiple knowledges, and experiences of resisting and being, are drawn from fieldwork and literature sources. These glimpses unsettle and challenge the assumed universality of dominant wildlife management approaches, and show that Eurocentric beliefs and practices are neither universal nor all-powerful. Situated engagement is introduced as an approach that addresses both the concepts and practices of wildlife management and the multiple worlds that wildlife management silences, ignores, devalues and undermines. Situated engagement is not a new management framework, but offers an approach to guide interactions in specific material, conceptual and discursive places. Ultimately, the thesis argues that engaging in these situated places meets the challenges of contemporary circumstances by recognising, imagining and realising possibilities that are unimaginable within the hall of mirrors.