We share here details of outputs and other publications.


Black rhino Diceros bicornis bicornis (p

Book chapter

Sian Sullivan, Simson !Uriǂkhob, Birgit Kötting, Jeff Muntifering and Rob Brett

Historicising black rhino in Namibia: colonial-era hunting, conservation custodianship, and plural values

Forthcoming in Bollig, M. and Anderson, A. Conservation in Africa (title tbc). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. First presented at a workshop on 'Conservation in Africa', organised by the University of Cologne, 19-21 April 2021.

Abstract: The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is a threatened species of which the south-western subspecies (D. bicornis bicornis, synonym D. bicornis occidentalis) currently thrives on communal land and elsewhere in Namibia. It does so despite its clearance from most of the animal’s former range due to the expansion of colonial hunting with firearms, and the concentration of marginalised Namibians alongside this high-value species in the challenging landscapes of north-west Namibia in particular. We trace what is known about the patterns and impacts of colonial-era hunting of rhino in the territory that is now the modern state of Namibia, introducing an online map of documented historical encounters with rhino in Namibia and the pressures on them from late 1700s. This map of historical encounters is currently complementing baseline information on the past distribution of black rhino in Namibia held by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) in support of its collaborative Black Rhino Custodianship Programme (BRCP). We outline contemporary pressures on black rhino and conservation responses to these circumstances, tracing the emergence of a novel approach to rhino conservation in Namibia that recruits people living under different kinds of land tenure as ‘custodians’ of these animals, so as to support the reintroduction of both black and white rhino throughout their former range. We focus in on proactive rhino conservation work in communal-area conservancies of west Namibia which combines the translocation of black rhino to areas of its former range with an array of endeavours to pluralise the animal’s contemporary value, including rhino tourism, the recruit of local ‘rhino rangers’, and ‘rhino pride’ initiatives. In this context, and differently to custodians on freehold land, a vulnerable, large-bodied, space-requiring and sometimes dangerous mammal with very high international conservation value, simultaneously lives alongside peoples impoverished historically and with their own ambitions towards self-determination. This custodianship model of rhino conservation can be understood in part as a creative species conservation response to the very challenging structural circumstances effected by both past impacts on rhino and present inequality in land distribution and tenure, both of which add heat to questions of access to land and resources, including wildlife.


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Edited Book & Book Section

Ute Dieckmann and Sian Sullivan

A new volume, edited by Ute Dieckmann and including partner chapters by Ute Dieckmann and Sian Sullivan has been published. Mapping the Ummappable? Cartographic Explorations with Indigenous Peoples in Africa (Bielefeld: Transcript, April 2021), asks how differing perceptions of the living environment might be mapped? It explores the potential of cartography to communicate the relations of Africa's indigenous peoples with other human and non-human actors within their environments. These relations transcend Western dichotomies such as culture-nature, human-animal, natural-supernatural. The volume brings two strands of research – cartography and "relational" anthropology – into a closer dialogue.

The book includes the following chapters that contribute to Etosha-Kunene Histories:

1. Introduction: Cartographic explorations with indigenous peoples
in Africa
(pp. 9-48), by Ute Dieckmann

1. Haiǁom in Etosha: Cultural maps and being-in-relations (pp. 93-137), by Ute Dieckmann
This chapter introduces a cultural mapping project in the Etosha National Park in Namibia. It was undertaken with a group of (former) hunter-gatherers, Haiǁom, who have lived in the area of the Etosha National Park for time immemorial. millennium. The Haiǁom have been evicted from their ancestral land (including the famous Etosha National Park). The Haiǁom maps were developed for the documentation of cultural heritage of the Haiǁom within the National Park, and for use in tourism, as the existence and history of the former inhabitants had been erased for the sake of Etosha as an African “untamed wilderness”. This chapter critically assesses the Haiǁom maps in retrospect with regard to both academic discussions on relational ontologies and loosely connected fields of enquiry, and to prior research on Haiǁom-being-in-relations and being-in-Etosha. The concerns raised also pertain to many other (African) cultural mapping projects for which a call is made for researchers working with indigenous communities in mapping projects to continuously reflect on their own ontological bias and stresses the risk of (unintentionally) reinforcing the primacy of western ontology. A new approach is proposed for coming closer to indigenous epistemology and ontology.

2. Densities of meaning in west Namibian landscapes: genealogies, ancestral agencies, and healing (pp. 139-191), by Sian Sullivan
This chapter introduces a historical cultural mapping project in west Namibia documenting childhood memories of former dwelling places, particularly in Sesfontein and Purros conservancies and the Palmwag tourism concession. The research draws into focus past practices of dwelling, mobility, livelihood and environmental perception amongst Khoe-speaking peoples (of ǁKhao-a, !Narenin and ǁUbu !haoti or lineages) who lived as hunter-harvesters and small stock pastoralists throughout the wider west Namibian landscape. A combination of factors cleared people from these lands, causing disruption to cultural, family and individual identities. Using an array of research methods – from recorded oral histories and musics associated with remembered sites, to logging mapped coordinates and associated information on google maps – the project aims to (re)inscribe layers of cultural significance now occluded from maps of the area. The paper focuses on three dimensions that are hard to make visible using conventional cartographic techniques: 1. the rhizomatically interwoven relationships between people, places and ancestors that on-site oral histories draw into focus as densely connected through past mobilities and genealogies; 2. the greeting practice tsē-khom that foregrounds the agentic presence of known ancestors and anonymous spirits of the dead associated with specific places and land areas; and 3. the remembered significance of |gais praise songs and arus healing dances linked with former living sites (ǁan-ǁhuib).



Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Selma Lendelvo, Mechtilde Pinto and Sian Sullivan

The first months of our project have been dominated by COVID-19 and associated lockdown restrictions and travel bans. We responded with a telephone survey, led by Dr Selma Lendelvo, of people in five communal-area conservancies to find out what their biggest challenges were due to COVID-19. The survey focused on intersections between COVID19 travel restrictions, tourism/trophy-hunting incomes and 'community-based conservation'. The peer-reviewed paper from this research has now been published by the Namibian Journal of Environment:

Lendelvo, S., Mechtilde, P. and Sullivan, S. 2020 A Perfect Storm? COVID-19 and community-based conservation in Namibia. Namibian Journal of Environment 4(B): 1-15

Abstract: We report on a rapid survey of five communal-area conservancies in Namibia to understand initial impacts on community-based conservation of national and international policies for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme has been growing for over 30 years, with high economic reliance on tourism and conservation hunting. We review the interrelationships between COVID-19, CBNRM, tourism and hunting, and discuss our findings under eight interlocking themes: 1) disruption to management and regular operational processes of conservancies, including 2) effects on conservancy wildlife patrolling and monitoring; 3) losses of revenue and cash flow in conservancy business operations; 4) impacts on Joint-Venture Partnerships; 5) impacts on employment opportunities and local livelihoods; 6) effects on community development projects and social benefits, including 7) disruption to funded projects and programmes; and 8) lack of technical capacity regarding communication technologies and equipment. In our conclusion we discuss tensions between an assumption that normal business can or will be resumed, and calls for the COVID-19 pandemic to create an opportunity for global choices away from ‘business-as-normal’. It is too early to tell what mix of these perspectives will unfold. What is clear is that communal-area conservancies must derive benefits from conservation activities in their areas that are commensurate with their role as key actors in the conservation of Namibia’s valuable wildlife and landscapes.

Keywords: communal-area conservancies, Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), conservation hunting, COVID-19 pandemic, Namibia, rural livelihoods, tourism, wildlife

A blog summarising our article has also been published by the Conservation Namibia blog of the Namibian Chamber of Environment, see Communal Conservancies Cry for Help to Survive Coronavirus Perfect Storm.