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. (forthcoming 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
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. (PDF)
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
“Reflections on Positionalities in Social Science Fieldwork in Northern Botswana: A call for decolonizing research” co-authored with Jamie Shinn & Kentse Madise
“(Il)legibility, Infrastructure, and Tourism: A Comparative Study of Two Districts in Contemporary Botswana”
“These Elephants Belong to the World: The Impact of the Global Conservation Movement on Conservation Policy in Botswana”
“Copenhagen in the Kalahari: The Securitization of Environmental Politics in Contemporary Botswana”
I successfully defended my doctoral thesis entitled The Politics of Land, Conservation, and the State in Postcolonial Botswana in June 2016. My dissertation examines the state-building process from the vantage point of the conservation estate, which is presented in this dissertation as a social category of land that can be used in the analysis of politics. It focuses on how the peculiarities of social, political, and economic life on the conservation estate intersect with the state-building process, creating different lived experiences of citizenship among conservation-adjacent residents.
The first of two key findings is related to citizenship and space. The nature of state-building in the conservation estate produces a differentiation of citizenship across territory. While differentiation is not an inherently new proposition, as scholars have long elucidated key distinctions between urban and rural experiences in Africa, this diversity exists within and across rural contexts. Conservation-adjacent people experience a vastly different set of experiences—greater state scrutiny, limits to livelihood approaches, restrictions on movement, and the co-presence of wildlife—compared other Batswana, including those living in rural areas outside of the conservation estate. This generates subjectivities not fully accounted for in the rural/urban divide, which has been the focus of much literature relating to the spatial contingencies of citizenship in postcolonial Africa.
The second key point is related to local negotiation and resistance of state-building processes. Contestation of conservation policies is not simply about grievances related to the impacts of the policies, but also serve as a rejection of a state perceived as distant yet coercive, unfamiliar yet omnipresent. The paradoxes of ambiguous state-building makes countervailing political organization difficult. Local resistance strategies are often aimed at redeploying a state logic that is mythical or imaginary, though not actually manifest in the quotidian processes of the state. Some actors—notably state agents, private sector entities and members of the global conservation movement—are better placed within this imaginary to make claims, shape narratives, craft the parameters of the debate, and (re)produce relationships of power even in the face of resistance.
Empirically, my thesis examines a series of conservation policies, and their reception by people living in Botswana’s conservation estate; phenomena include: securitized anti-poaching, the national hunting ban, restriction on the use of wildlife products, relocation of residents from conservation areas, and the conservation of globally-important charismatic species.