‘Rhino poaching is out of control!’ Violence, race and the politics of hysteria in online conservation

Bram Büscher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The rhino-poaching crisis in South Africa, according to many concerned citizens, conservation organisations and governments, is ‘out of control’. With over 1000 rhinos poached in each of 2013, 2014 and 2015, the crisis has triggered a massive response, much of which heavily depends on online tools to raise funds and awareness. The paper analyses emotive discourses and imaginaries as part of dominant online responses to the rhino-poaching crisis and found that these are predominantly espoused by whites and show a worrying penchant towards (extreme) violence. Building on a theorisation of the links between race, nature, affect and control, the paper hypothesises that these responses reflect a ‘politics of hysteria’. This politics captures the employment of affective and emotive expressions as a way to demand control over a situation ‘out of control’ in the context of historical and contemporary South African political economies of racial inequality. And as these expressions often tend towards exaggerated or extreme violence, they become potent forms of political mobilisation and intervention. New media are a crucial ingredient of this potency, and the paper concludes that this opens up important new questions about the relations between race, nature and violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-998
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Volume48
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • conservation
  • hysteria
  • politics
  • Rhino poaching
  • South Africa
  • violence

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