Global environmentalism through the looking glass
(University of Zurich)
Paper short abstract:
A national park in Madagascar and an exhibit in Zurich about Malagasy ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ provide windows of imagination through which local people in both localities represent each other. The paper examines these imaginations within their respective cultural context.
Paper long abstract:
The Euro-American environmentalist agenda, which promotes 'nature' as a self-evident and supremely valued entity, has in recent years gained great political influence throughout the world. In Madagascar, the conservation of the country's extraordinary biodiversity is now one of the government's prime goals, leading to the creation of numerous national parks such as the Masoala National Park in the east of the country. In Europe, the zoo in Zurich raises money for the Masoala National Park through a massive greenhouse inside the zoo, which houses fauna and flora indigenous to the Masoala region. The creation of Masoala National Park in Madagascar and of the zoo exhibit in Switzerland - named <i>Little Masoala</i> - produces conceptual windows through which Malagasy and Swiss people glimpse at, and form mutual imaginations and representations of, each other. In Zurich, <i>Little Masoala</i> is a window onto Madagascar, providing a space through which various groups of visitors form ideas and perceptions not only of the Malagasy natural environment, but also of the Malagasy people, through the lens of the modern Euro-American concept of 'nature conservation.' In Madagascar, the establishment of the park and its impact on local people's lives form the basis upon which they reflect about the motivations, intentions and the power of those who are thought to be responsible for the park's creation and its management. This paper, based on fieldwork in both localities, examines these dynamics of imagination and representation.
European discourse gone global: shaping the lives of people worldwide and being shaped by them