Starting the conversation: land issues and critical conservation studies in post-colonial Africa
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This thematic issue brings together the scholarly fields of critical conservation studies and African land issues, a relationship largely unexplored to date. The alienation of land for conservation purposes, introduced to Africa under colonial rule and still taking place today, has fundamental impacts on the politics of land and land use, and is contested in contemporary nation-states - including those that are attempting to implement land restitution and reform. The contributors explore these issues in a range of African contexts. Three key themes are identified: the problematic constructions of ‘community’ by outside agencies; spatial exclusion and the silencing of local voices; and the neoliberalisation of conservation spaces. In contributing to new perspectives on these themes, this thematic issue shows how discourses and practices of conservation, increasingly shaped by neoliberalism, currently impact on land ownership, access and use. It further highlights some important historical continuities. These trends can be observed in transfrontier conservation areas, on state-owned land used for conservation and ‘green’ initiatives, but also on private land where conservation is increasingly turned to commercial purposes.