Elephant-induced Displacement and the Power of Choice: Moral Narratives about Resettlement in Mozambique's Limpopo National Park

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2013

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Abstract

"Despite the centrality of moral assumptions to defining environmental crises and solutions, research in discursive political ecology has paid inadequate attention to conservation's moral dimensions. Conservation-related resettlement is a problem for people working and living in protected areas across the globe, around which diverse ideas, meanings, and narratives emerge and circulate. Drawing from participant observation and interview data, I assess the interactions between two 'moral narratives' that emerged in Mozambique's Limpopo National Park (LNP) where international wildlife translocations were ongoing and resettlement is underway. LNP residents employed a 'moral narrative of protection' to achieve their objective of living free from conflict with wildlife. Conservation managers employed a 'moral narrative of choice' to advance their goal of achieving a voluntary resettlement programme. These divergent narratives reflect these actors' morally defined standards and expectations regarding people's responsibilities towards the environment, other species, and/or other people. Taken together they reveal important contradictions to the state's claim that the resettlement programme is voluntary. Instead, they indicate that resettlement processes are taking place in a displacement context wrought by conflict with wildlife, elephants in particular. My findings advance understandings of the moral dimensions of conservation discourse and the complex relationship between displacement and volition."

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displacement, resettlement, elephants

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