Rough Time in Paradise: Claims, Blames and Memory Making Around Some Protected Areas in Kenya

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"In a recent issue of Conservation and Society, Rangarajan and Shahabuddin (2006) provide a biological and historical synthesis of issues relating to the displacement and relocation of people from protected areas. Rather than respond directly to the original article, this contribution is inspired by it and explores related issues from an East African perspective. I will draw upon my experience as an Africanist historian who has investigated colonial-era land alienation in the former protectorate of British East Africa (BEA, now Kenya). With editorial permission, I will personalise part of this article by describing an exchange of views with a conservation biologist and others on my 2006 book. The case study I examined through oral testimony and archival research major land losses and forced removals of Maasai communities by British administrators in the 1900s provides an instructive African example of older antecedents of widespread dislocation of resident peoples, though not in this instance from areas reserved for parks, they came later. As a former settler colony, this is a very different scenario from India, but there are also many parallels. European settler imaginings of landscape and wilderness as pristine and uninhabited which continue to powerfully influence local, regional and international conservationist practice and discourses bring a different element to the discussion. Equally, African imaginings of the past, and of lost lands, should be factored into the analysis and subjected to scrutiny."



displacement, protected areas, indigenous institutions