The Impacts of Conservation and Militarization on Indigenous Peoples

A Southern African San Perspective

Abstract

There has been a long-standing debate about the roles of San in the militaries of southern Africa and the prevalence of violence among the Ju/'hoansi and other San people. The evolutionary anthropology and social anthropological debates over the contexts in which violence and warfare occurs among hunters and gatherers are considered, as is the “tribal zone theory” of warfare between states and indigenous people. This paper assesses the issues that arise from these discussions, drawing on data from San in Angola, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Utilizing cases of how San have been affected by military forces and wildlife conservation agencies in what became protected areas in southern Africa, this article shows that indigenous peoples have been treated differentially by state and nongovernmental organizations involved in anti-poaching, shoot-to-kill, and forced resettlement policies. Particular emphasis is placed on the !Xun and Khwe San of southern Angola and northern Namibia and the Tshwa San of western Zimbabwe and northern Botswana, who have been impacted by militarization and coercive conservation efforts since the late nineteenth century. Principal conclusions are that conservation and militarization efforts have led to a reduction in land and resources available to indigenous people, higher levels of poverty, increased socioeconomic stratification, and lower levels of physical well-being. San have responded to these trends by engaging in social activism, forming community-based institutions, and pursuing legal actions aimed at obtaining human rights and equitable treatment.

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Acknowledgments

Support of some of the research upon which this paper is based was provided by the US National Science Foundation (grant No. BCS 1122932 to M. Biesele and R. Hitchcock), Brot für die Welt (Project No. 2013 0148 G), the Open Society Initiative for South Africa (OSISA) (Project No. 2650), the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) (Grant No. 2098), and the Millennium Challenge-Account-Namibia (MCA-N). Permission to conduct this research was provided by the governments of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Support was provided by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia; the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation, and Tourism and the Remote Area Development Program in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Botswana; and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS) in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, the Zimbabwe Research Council (ZRC), and the University of Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. Special thanks to the Khwe Custodian Committee in Bwabwata National Park in Zambezi Region, the Ju/'hoan Traditional Authority, the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia, and the Tsoro-o-tso San Development Trust (TSDT). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Second Warfare, Environment, Social Inequality, and Pro-Sociability (WESIPS 2) Conference, Rick Chacon and Yamilette Chacon, organizers, Center for Cross-Cultural Study, Seville, Spain, May 25–27, 2017. I would like to express my appreciation to the people of the Kalahari for sharing their ideas, information, and experiences so freely. The article has benefitted from the comments and suggestions of Rick Chacon, Melinda Kelly, June-el Piper, and two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Robert K. Hitchcock.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 4 Author’s fieldwork in Southern Africa, 1975–2018

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Hitchcock, R.K. The Impacts of Conservation and Militarization on Indigenous Peoples. Hum Nat 30, 217–241 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-019-09339-3

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Keywords

  • San
  • Southern Africa
  • Militarization
  • Conservation
  • Warfare
  • Genocide
  • Social activism
  • Indigenous rights