Academic journal article African Studies Review

Global Visions, Local Landscapes: A Political Ecology of Conservation, Conflict, and Control in Northern Madagascar

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Global Visions, Local Landscapes: A Political Ecology of Conservation, Conflict, and Control in Northern Madagascar

Article excerpt

Lisa L. Gezon. Global Visions, Local Landscapes: A Political Ecology of Conservation, Conflict, and Control in Northern Madagascar. Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2005. xiii + 225 pp. Photographs. Illustrations. Maps. Tables. Figures, References. Index. $72.00. Cloth. $26.95. Paper.

A major trend in recent decades has been the proliferation of international conservation projects in biodiversity hotspots around Africa. This book is an excellent antidote to the all-too-common conceit that such projects are the dominant forces of change in the areas where they work. Through a rich ethnographic analysis of two villages adjacent to the limestone Ankarana massif in northwestern Madagascar, Lisa Gezon shows how global conservation efforts-embodied in the actions of local project agents-are just one among many forces contesting access and control over territories and the natural resources they harbor.

The Antankarana are rice farmers and catde herders sandwiched between conservation areas, shrimp farms, sugar cane plantations, and artisanal mines. Comprising both long-term residents and migrants, villages in this area recognize numerous layers of authority: clan elders, a traditional politico-religious leader, state administrative layers, and, most recendy, the conservation project. In part 1, Gezon places dense descriptions of two such Antankarana villages (land use, social structures, history) in the context of broader regional and national trends of social and political history.

The book's strength lies in describing and analyzing the detailed dynamics of local politics. Part 2 highlights several specific events of conflict over access to natural resources: between farmers and herders, between the traditional leader and the conservation project, and between the traditional leader and different constituencies. In each case, Gezon shows, the outcomes reflect struggles over authority and jurisdiction, with participants calling on different ideological norms rooted in historical conflicts, kinship ties, identity claims, or modern state structures. In her own words, "visible landscapes result from many levels of deliberation-including contests by individuals over social position and the rights those positions entail" (185). …

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