Contested conservation – neglected corporeality: the case of the Namib wild horses

Pütz, Robert; Schlottmann, Antje

This paper is concerned with a herd of wild horses that struggles to survive in the Namib Desert. This case, we argue, reveals ambivalences and critical paradoxes that go along with putting nature–culture dualisms into conservation practice. At the same time, we argue that there are aspects of bio-power involved which cannot be understood properly without taking into account the sphere of the body. We hence analyse in detail the “struggles over nature” that enfold around the questions of whether and with what means humans should intervene in the predicted extinction of the horses. Thereupon, we elucidate the relationships between sustainable conservation work and the symbolic as well as material practices of territorialization. Our investigation then puts focus on the fact that the conflictual border work appears also as an incorporated practice of subjects. Thus, while elaborating on a phenomenological approach, we explore the field of a contested conservation by employing the concept of intercorporeality. Such a “more-than-discursive” approach to human–animal relations, we finally argue, helps to reposition research for conservation as well as conservation practice towards learning about, and with, the lived bodies of all actors involved.

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Pütz, Robert / Schlottmann, Antje: Contested conservation – neglected corporeality: the case of the Namib wild horses. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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