CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

Southern natural heritage: a small-scale global history – PANSER

PANSER. Natural Southern heritage. For a micro-scale global history

PANSER aims to analyze how, from Africa to Asia, from 1900 to nowadays, «experts« have been moving from one protected area to another and as a result, have been shaping an Afro-Asian bio-heritage area. Through six case studies (Congo, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia), research intends to investigate the trajectories of these heritage-makers, study the negotiations and struggles enrooted into nature, and in doing so to explore a small-scale global history of natural heritage.

A world history of an Afro-Asian bio-heritage area

Work on the history of science, heritage and environment attests to this problem with bringing the times and actors in heritage-related activities together into one single narrative. With regard to colonial times, historians have shed light on the role played by the members of a diaspora of sciences in the patrimonialization of nature in the tropics, but only few works have managed to account for the negotiated dimension of nature policies at a local level. If one looks at post-colonial times, on the other hand, one sees the reverse historiographical trend. Here, where historians have managed to describe the weight of local resistance in natural heritage spaces in the Souths, few works have succeeded in offering an account of all the scales of action – from local to global, and from Africa to Asia – that organize the patrimonialization of nature in the tropics. The problem, therefore, is to offer a history that embraces both the entire 20th century and an Afro-Asian area (with all the actors involved in heritage generation who fall within it).<br /><br />There are such vast differences among the contexts being studied that we must abandon any desire for an «all-embracing« history: no single structure exists that can withstand the unique nature of Congolese or Ethiopian, or Vietnamese and Malaysian, socio-environmental dynamics. How, therefore, can this Afro-Asian area be located within the «world history« that seems to have produced it? One solution is to follow the path taken by the nature professionals who explored this area in the 20th century. Taking the Indian Ocean as the focal point, this continuous movement of foresters (1900s to 1930s), ecologists (1930s to 1980s) or consultants (1980s to the present day) may serve to explain the fact that after decolonization, the same conservationist policies were continued under the leadership of international institutions and countries that would appear to have together carried out the projects that began in colonial times.

In order to understand this Afro-Asian history from 1900 (when the London Convention for the Preservation of Wild Animals, Birds and Fish in Africa was drafted) to 2017 (Survival International's complaint against the WWF regarding abuses carried out in parks in Cameroon), we will discuss three different approaches:

By actors: Our purpose here is to create a prosopography of the experts who produce natural heritage. We study their professional networks, their profiles and their interactions with populations in order to gain an appreciation of the power games played by scientists (colonial and international), managers (imperial, and later national) and inhabitants, each of whom appropriates the know-how of the others in order to consolidate, or transform, their social position.

By vehicles for association: The aim in this case is to study the institutions that give a shape to a communications network that involves the scientific societies, international organizations, expeditions and conferences among which rules, scientific facts and values are produced and spread. The entanglement of local, national and international scales is analysed in order to historicize the geography of a global environmental intervention.

By territories: Here, we seek to develop micro-histories of global territories, and to reveal the negotiations and struggles that bind all the actors engaged in conservation together: agronomists, biologists and ecologists; administrators, experts and consultants; naturalist filmmakers, media and visitors; agropastoralists, tourist guides and local development brokers; and local officials, regional managers and national leaders.

PANSER will be structured around individual works – each contributor will study his/her archives – and around collective research – the common study of these archives will lead to the construction of a comparative, connected study of an Afro-Asian region. Indeed, if this region is in essence heterogeneous, the circulation of scientists, experts, then consultants from national park to national park encourages its study as a territory in and of itself. Thus, this is the main objective of this project: to study different histories of heritage in order to build a small-scale, global history of natural heritage in the South.
By intermingling field and archive work for 36 months, PANSER will culminate in the construction of an archive database, the training of a post-doctoral fellow, the organization of both an international symposium and a summer school, and the publication of both a special issue of an academic journal and of a synthetic book for a wider public. This history of the global invention of heritage should thereby allow us to think about the environment in the southern areas of the world in terms of adaptation rather than degradation.

The next practical step of our project is the organization of an international workshop to be held at Rennes 2 university, in january 2021. The 15 participants share the common goal of discussing their own research perspectives in order, first, to publish a special issue within an international review, then, to explore the possibility of producing a collective research project to submit to the ERC.
However, the actual global health crisis casts grave doubts on the faisability of such a project, that necessitates, to be carried on, moving from North America and Europe to Africa and Asia.

Task 1. The actors: prosopography of heritage makers

Blanc Guillaume, « Les anonymes de la conservation : Nature, contradiction et injustice dans l’Éthiopie contemporaine (Simien, 1963-2019) », Journal of History for Environment and Society 4, 2019, p. 103-131 (publié en 2020).

Quenet Grégory et Jan Synowieck, « Ce que conserver veut dire : Praxis et historicité de la nature », Annales historiques de la révolution française 1, 2020, p. 1-25.

Blanc Guillaume, « L’expert, le dirigeant et l’habitant. La fabrique globale de la nature éthiopienne (1965-1970) », Genèses 115-2, 2019, p. 53-74.

Task 2. The scales: vehicles of association for inventing heritage

Blanc Guillaume, « Governing Nature and Ethiopia: Struggles around World Heritage, Nation-Building and Ecologies (1963–2012) », Northeast African Studies 18-1/2, 2018, p. 137-164 (publié en 2019)

Task 3. The territories: micro-histories of global heritages

Pouillard Violette, « Visions of concord: Wild animals and the Garden of the Revolution (Jardin des Plantes menagerie, 1793-c. 1820) », Journal of History for Environment and Society 4, 2019, p. 11-40 (publié en 2020).

Task 4: The macro-history: investigating an Afro-Asian territory

Blanc Guillaume, L’invention du colonialisme vert. Pour en finir avec le mythe de l’Éden africain, Paris, Flammarion, septembre 2020.

Blanc Guillaume, « Patrimoines naturels aux Suds. Pour une histoire globale à échelle réduite », Palimpseste 2, 2019, p. 22-25.

In 1959, at the behest of emperor Haile Selassie, Unesco sent John Blower to Addis Ababa to guide the functioning of the Ethiopian national parks. Formerly a game warden in British Kenya, Blower wrote upon arrival that: "As democracy does not yet threaten Ethiopia, we can still save its nature". Over the course of the next fifteen years, Blower supervised the management and the implementation of the Ethiopian national parks and, in doing so, the expulsion of their inhabitants, who were considered detrimental to a once pristine and luxuriant African Eden, now overcrowded and deforested. The Ethiopian leaders, far from being helpless victims of a green neocolonialism, received the honor of seeing their parks classified as World Heritage Sites, and obtained the associated funding to impose them along the borders, the lands populated by nomads and the bush, i.e. in secessionist territories.

Ethiopian documentation provides us with an ideal vantage point from which to examine and construct a global history of heritage programs. The same can be said for the archive funds identified by the other members of the PANSER-project. In Cambodia and Malaysia, two initially very different colonial policies converged, after independence, towards the adoption of similar international norms; however, the policies in Malaysia focused on concerted territorial management while conversely, in Cambodia, the policies were carried out by coercively controlling the local actors. For its part, the Congo case seems to be characterized by greater continuity. From the colonial era to the Democratic Republic, tensions between the elitist appropriation of hunting resources and the adaptations by the locals to the marginalization of native uses deeply marked the evolution of a global conservationism. Finally, in regions as diverse as Zanzibar, the Seychelles and Vietnam, research on protected areas suggests that, in 1900 as in 2017, European and American "heritage makers" have constructed global models of knowledge and government and imposed them on both nature and people by relying on the comings and goings between different African and Asian areas.

These processes are a key point of focus for the project, which aims to investigate from 1900 to 2017 the trajectories of experts (foresters or agronomists, then biologists and experts, ecologists and consultants) who move from one natural space to another, as a way to build a global history of interventions upon environment and heritage. From Equatorial Africa to the South China Sea, focusing upon these interconnected histories in the relevant local territories aims at tracing from below the history of encounters, negotiations and struggles which paved the way, in the twentieth century, towards the construction of an Afro-Asian bio-heritage area.

PANSER will be structured around individual works – each contributor will study his/her archives – and around collective research – the common study of these archives will lead to the construction of a comparative, connected study of an Afro-Asian region. Indeed, if this region is in essence heterogeneous, the circulation of scientists, experts, then consultants from national park to national park encourages its study as a territory in and of itself. Thus, this is the main objective of this project: to study different histories of heritage in order to build a small-scale, global history of natural heritage in the South.

By intermingling field and archive work for 36 months, PANSER will culminate in the construction of an archive database, the training of a post-doctoral fellow, the organization of both an international symposium and a summer school, and the publication of both a special issue of an academic journal and of a synthetic book for a wider public. This history of the global invention of heritage should thereby allow us to think about the environment in the southern areas of the world in terms of adaptation rather than degradation.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Guillaume Blanc (TEMPORA)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

TEMPORA

Help of the ANR 179,388 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2018 - 36 Months

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