Conservation as a social contract in a violent frontier: The case of (Anti-) poaching in Garamba National Park, eastern DR Congo

Kristof Titeca*, Patrick Edmond, Gauthier Marchais, Esther Marijnen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Protected areas located in areas of violent conflict are often conceived as spaces where the state has lost its control and parks are ‘dissolved’, to the point where poaching and violent extraction of resources run free. Our analysis of conservation in Garamba National Park, in eastern DRC, shows that forms of regulation of (anti-)poaching activities continue to exist within such spaces through the persistence of social contracts that bind different actors in and around the park around conservation. We show that these contracts have long histories and change substantially over time, and yet continue to function as reference points for populations and authorities with regards to (anti-) poaching activities, and the organization of social life in and around the park more broadly. Faced with insecurity, poverty and uncertainty, the population living close to Garamba National Park continues to refer to these social contracts, or seeks to devise new ones in search for predictability, livelihoods, security and the provision of basic social services. By focusing on the ‘contractual layer’ of conservation in a violent frontier, we aim to contribute to the understanding of the re-configuration of public authority in these spaces, and demonstrate the conceptual and empirical relevance of analysing social contracts for geographers. We do so by drawing a conceptual and empirical bridge between the literature that has conceived conservation as enclosures, and the literature that has focused more on the contractual dimension of conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102116
JournalPolitical Geography
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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