My research focuses on state-society relations as they relate to biodiversity conservation in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the North-South relations incumbent in environmental governance processes. This approach considers biodiversity conservation not as simply a technical, scientific or apolitical process but as one that is inextricably connected to the political processes of the international system, postcolonial statehood, and citizen-state relations.


LaRocco, A. A. and Mogende, E. (2022) “Fall from Grace or Back Down to Earth? Conservation and Political Conflict in Africa’s ‘Miracle’ State” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, DOI:

LaRocco, A. A. (2020). “Botswana’s Hunting Ban and the Transformation of Game-Meat Cultures, Economies and Ecologies” Journal of Southern African Studies, DOI:

LaRocco, A. A. (2020). “Infrastructure, Wildlife Tourism, (Il)legible Populations: A Comparative Study of Two Districts in Contemporary Botswana” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. DOI:

LaRocco, A. A., Shinn, J. E., Madise, K. (2019). “Reflections on Positionalities in Social Science Fieldwork in Northern Botswana: A call for decolonizing research” Politics and Gender. DOI:

LaRocco, A. A. (2019). “The Biodiversity for Life (B4L) flagship initiative: The EU, Africa, and biodiversity conservation” in Thiel, M., Maier, S., and Beringer, S. L. (eds.), EU Development Policies: Between Norms and Geopolitics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 55-77. DOI: 

LaRocco, A. A. (2018). “Memory as claim-making in Kalahari socio-environments” in Lakhani, V. and de Smalen, E. (eds.), Sites of Remembering: Landscapes, Lessons, Policies, RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society, no. 3, pp. 27-32. DOI: 

LaRocco, A. (2016). “The comprehensive hunting ban: strengthening the state through participatory conservation in contemporary Botswana” in Ramutsindela, M., Miescher, G., and Boehi, M. (eds.), The Politics of Nature and Science in Southern Africa. Basel, Switzerland: Basler Afrika Bibliographien, pp 179-207. (PDF)

Works in Progress

“Mother’s Nature?: A Preliminary Analysis of All-Female Conservation Initiatives in Eastern and Southern Africa”

“’These Elephants Belong to the World’: The Impact of the Global Conservation Movement on Conservation Policy in Botswana”

Book Project

The Nature of Politics: State-building and the Conservation Estate in Postcolonial Botswana – under contract with Ohio University Press

My book project focuses on the state-building qualities of biodiversity conservation in southern Africa, examining the case study of Botswana. My manuscript argues that the discourses and practices related to biodiversity conservation are essential to state-building in the postcolonial era as they invoke the ways in which the state may exert authority over people, places and resources, enact and remake territorial control, craft notions of ideal citizenship and identity, and structure economic relationships at the local, national, and global levels.

The “conservation estate” is a term most often used as an apolitical descriptor denoting land set aside for the purposes of conservation. As a key point of departure, my book puts forward a novel and much needed definition of the conservation estate that is tied to its political elements. The component parts of conservation—control over land, policing of human behavior, and the structuring of the authority that allows or disallows certain subjectivities—render conservation a political phenomenon that may be analyzed separate from considerations of “nature” or wildlife. This book examines the undertheorized impact of biodiversity conservation on political authority in contemporary Africa. While a primary case study of Botswana, it does present generalizable claims about the conservation estate as a novel analytical category.

Botswana, with 39% of its land set aside for conservation, is home to large populations of wildlife, particularly charismatic megafauna including the largest herd of elephants on the continent. Empirically, this book examines a series of conservation policies, and their reception by people living on the conservation estate. These phenomena include: securitized anti-poaching enforcement, the national hunting ban (2014-2019), restrictions on using wildlife products, forced evictions from conservation areas, limitations on mobility and freedom of movement, the political economy of Botswana’s wildlife tourism industry, and the conservation of globally-important charismatic megafauna species in the country. This book will be published as part of the Research in International Studies, Africa Series at Ohio University Press.

Upcoming Research 

Mothers’ Nature?: What All-Female Conservation Initiatives Can Tell Us About Gender, the Environment, and Power 

I will begin my time as a Fulbright grantee for the Africa Regional Research Program in September 2022. During this period I will investigate gendered conservation interventions in Botswana and Zimbabwe through qualitative, empirical fieldwork, including interviews, surveys, and participant observation, supplemented by the insights from feminist political ecology. This project’s will assess these programs in their own contexts, rather than relying on untested and highly essentialized assumptions of gender that are often accepted at face value.