Visioning African Lionscapes: Securing space, mobilizing capital, and fostering subjects

Authors: Sandra McCubbin*, Queen's University, Alice Hovorka, York University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Animal Geographies, Africa
Keywords: political ecology, conservation, securitization, governmentality, lions
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In September 2016, 14 months after the illegal killing of Cecil the lion raised an international furor over trophy hunting, 58 individuals gathered at Oxford University for the Cecil Summit, a meeting of experts designed to vision the future of lion conservation in honour of Cecil. This paper explores the Cecil Summit as a case study of a global political ecology which offers rare insight into global conservation governance in action. Through an analytic of governmentality, we explore how the actors emboldened by the Cecil Moment secured the authority to vision the Cecil Movement. We then analyze their vision asking how the problem of lion decline is diagnosed and how certain prescriptions come to the fore. Empirical insights are drawn from event ethnography, document review, and semi-structured interviews. Our analysis reveals three components of intervention into African lionscapes, namely securing space, mobilizing capital, and fostering subjects. These interventions are founded upon scientific and economic rationality as well as particular representations of lions and rural Africans. Our analysis of the vision contributes to recent discussions in critical conservation scholarship about the dovetailing of conservation, security, the economy – and we add – subjectivity. We conclude by highlighting the ways in which militarized conservation appears to be inching closer to the lion and offering a critique of the vision for lion conservation put forward at the Cecil Summit.

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