Postcolonial nature conservation in practice

the everyday challenges of on-ground urban nature conservation, Cape Town, South Africa

Marnie Graham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


In a time of biodiversity loss, conservation management literature in Cape Town focuses on biodiversity preservation and top-down management responses. Contributing a more nuanced and politicised understanding of conservation management, this paper examines the challenges of everyday nature conservation and collaboration that occurs nearby Cape Town’s persistently racially-segregated and historically neglected townships. The analysis is based on in-depth interviews with on-ground nature conservators and participant observations in collaborative conservation arrangements with local township residents. Examining the literature on Cape Town’s colonial and apartheid conservation histories, I also consider how manifest through the identified everyday challenges are persistent colonial legacies—including deeply racialised relations, exclusionary conservation practices, and a focus on biodiversity conservation to the neglect of community needs. However, on-ground relations and everyday practices also reveal significant contestations to and transformations away from colonising legacies. The analysis contributes towards a discussion of what it means to be a ‘postcolonial’ nature conservator in Cape Town.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-62
Number of pages20
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Cape Town
  • Collaborative conservation
  • Everyday relations
  • Postcolonial nature conservation
  • Urban nature
  • Ways of knowing

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