PhD defence: Biopolitical Landscapes. Governing People and Spaces through Conservation in Tanzania

PhD defence

Jevgeniy Bluwstein


Conservation and rural development are at an impasse in sub-Saharan Africa. Protected areas attract global tourism and generate foreign exchange, while rural people living around parks and reserves continue to depend on land and land-based resources for their livelihoods. At this impasse, conservation professionals are reconfiguring conservation interventions to protect wildlife beyond the boundaries of parks and reserves to ensure its survival as a genetically diverse population. This attempt to rescale wildlife conservation from protected area management towards ecosystem management has been coined ‘landscape conservation’. In the last years, conservation through the landscape approach has gained remarkable traction in academic and policy debates, donor and NGO circles, and on-the-ground initiatives in the Global South. ‘Landscape conservation’ seems to be a new depoliticizing buzzword, similar to ‘sustainable development’ and ‘good governance’. This thesis offers a critical corrective to the mainstream discourse of landscape conservation.
Empirically, this thesis is based on 13 months of qualitative field research in Tanzania between 2014-2017. I have conducted fieldwork in two conservation landscapes, the Selous-Niassa Corridor in Southern Tanzania and the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem in Northern Tanzania. Drawing on the analytic of governmentality, I conceptualize landscape conservation initiatives as biopolitical projects of human population management and control to enable wildlife to roam free across unbounded spaces. I show how underpinned by concerns of wild life being under threat by human activities, rural livelihoods are rendered by state- and non-state conservation authorities as incompatible with conservation objectives, unless human behaviour and attitudes are changed, and rural livelihoods are fixed in time and space. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates that biopolitical landscapes advance an asymmetric valuation of human and nonhuman lives, rendering wildlife worthy of protection and care, while demanding from rural people a sacrifice of their present and future needs and aspirations. Thus, instead of working towards an overcoming of the conservation and development impasse, landscape conservation intensifies it.


Jens Friis Lund, Professor, Department of Food and Rescource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Mattias Borg Rasmussen, Assistant Professor, Department of Food and Rescource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assesment Committee

Christian Lund, Professor, Department of Food and Rescource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Robert Fletcher, Associate Professor, Wageningen University

Bill Adams, Professor, University of Cambridge

If you are interested in a full copy of the thesis, you can contact the PhD student or the supervisors.