From Biopower to Ontopower? Violent Responses to Wildlife Crime and the New Geographies of Conservation

Bram Büscher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Intensifying global dynamics of wildlife crime are rapidly reshaping conservation politics, practices and geographies. Most pronounced are the manifold violent responses to wildlife crime, including direct lethal action and increasing anticipatory action to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. This paper reflects on these dynamics in relation to recent literature that employs Foucault's concept of biopower to understand the governance of increasingly precarious human and non-human life. Building on Brian Massumi's exposition of ontopower - an 'environmental power' that 'alters the life environment's conditions of emergence' - I explore whether we are seeing a move from bio- to ontopower where the imperative is less the construction of systemic forms of governmentality to ensure life's 'optimisation' than on processually pre-empting incipient tendencies towards unknown but certain future threats to life. Phrased differently, ontopower focuses on how to prevent nature's destruction in the future through pre-emptive measures in the present. Drawing on empirical research on violent responses to rhino poaching in South Africa, the paper argues that we are seeing the uneven emergence of new geographies of conservation based on ontopower. It concludes by speculating whether conservation's insecurity is turning into its pre-emptive other by making (green) war necessary for non-human life's survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-169
JournalConservation and Society
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Biopower
  • Brian Massumi
  • conservation
  • ontopower
  • violence
  • wildlife crime

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'From Biopower to Ontopower? Violent Responses to Wildlife Crime and the New Geographies of Conservation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this