Creating low-wage conservation labour
Lerato Thakholi (Wageningen University and Research)
Paper short abstract:
Through archival documents and life histories I demonstrate that the development of a private agrarian economy in the lowveld region of South Africa in the 1920s was contingent on the expulsion of black people from their land. Moreover, that this process created a racialized division of labour from which private conservation continues to benefit.
Paper long abstract:
The working conditions of conservation labourers demonstrate how deplorable housing conditions, poor salaries, and long expensive commutes to work are all invisibly bound to conservation commodities. Furthermore, by presenting the “nature” that the tourist consumes as pristine and wild, conservationists render the time and energy expended by the labourer invisible. In this paper, I explore how this type of conservation labour was produced in the lowveld region of South Africa. Following Ramutsindela’s call to interrogate the production of nature conservation labour, I analysed archival documents and life histories to demonstrate that the development of a private agrarian economy in the lowveld in the 1920s was contingent on the expulsion of black people from their land. Moreover, I show that conservation was not just a benefactor of a racialized property and labour regime. Rather, the proclamation of private nature reserves was only made possible by the absence of black people from the farm. Finally, I highlight how private nature reserves drew from the labour pool that had been created through the ejection of black people, thereby maintaining a racialized division of labour from which it continues to benefit.
New surplus populations in Africa: ruptures and continuities in rural transitions