CALL FOR PAPERS – Old Land-New Practices? The Changing Face of Land & Conservation in Postcolonial Africa

Panel and paper proposals are due on or before March 30,  2012 and should be e-mailed to with the words ‘panel’ (and/or) ‘proposal submission’ in the subject line.  Download Abstract submission form.

The conference will take place September 11th – 14th, 2012, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa and is being organised by Georgina Barrett (Rhodes University), Nqobile Zulu (University of Witwatersrand), Jenny Josefsson and Shirley Brooks (University of the Free State).

The ‘land issue’ is omnipresent across post-colonial Africa. It is a highly contentious and contested topic, which at times has proven explosive (Zimbabwe, Kenya), or else a persistent focus of identity politics (Tanzania, Sudan), or central to historically rooted struggles for equality and restitution (South Africa, Botswana). Yet, the legacy of colonial land use management from which these struggles are borne, continues to inform contemporary conservation policy practices. They are also conceptualised and legitimated by a fusion of international environmental and neoliberal market agendas and regional and national policy exigencies, framed by diverse socio-economic development challenges. One of many ‘solutions’ borne of this conjuncture has been the spread of conservation and environmental protection strategies which promise to ‘deliver’ on the requisite national economic and environmental priorities in adherence to broader international and regional prerogatives. Such promises are bound to the success of market orientated strategies for the preservation of Africa’s biodiversity. Furthermore, they are tied to the commoditization of wildlife and wild spaces, and the ‘mass production’ thereof in a range of state-owned, private or joint partnership ventures, including parks, farms and conservancies. The results are not yet fully comprehensible, but it is evident that the post-colonial echoes the colonial, and in this continuity conservation and environmental protection strategies may perpetuate historical insecurities through the alienation of local communities from land ownership and management practices.

This conference was inspired by conversations amongst attendees of the
Nature Inc. conference held at the Institute for Social Sciences (ISS) at The Hague in June 2011 interested in the complex issues surrounding land, conservation, and ‘security’ within an African context. It therefore aims to contribute to the development and sharing of knowledge and expertise with an explicitly pan-African focus. Specifically, it seeks to critically engage with the nexus between post-colonial land use changes and the development of conservation initiatives across the continent at both the theoretical and practical level with cognisance of their historical precedence.

The conference will be organised around the following themes:
• Conservation as a post-colonial land use option
• Historical and contemporary ecological imperialism
• Land use and identity politics
• Gender dynamics and conservation land use strategies
• Alienation, (in)security and conflict
• State and private environmental/conservation agendas
• Community-based natural resource management
• Market driven environmentalism and conservation in Africa
• Continuities and divergences in colonial (and apartheid) and post-colonial
• Theoretical debates and practical realities- never the twain shall meet?

For more information about registration, paper and panel submissions, guest speakers, field trips and the opportunity to publish papers in a special edition of
Journal of Contemporary African Studies, amongst others, go to the conference
website HERE.

CONFERENCE – 5th Latin American (Inter-American) Environmental Philosophy Conference 2013

The Fifth Latin American (Inter-American) Environmental Philosophy Conference will be held in Puerto Natales, Chile, on March 13-17, 2013.  The conference will be preceded by an International Course (March 4-13, 2013) on “Biodiversity and Conservation: Integrating new ecological understanding and ethical foundations,” coordinated by Drs. Juan Armesto and Dr. Ricardo Rozzi.

Post-conference optional field trips will include visits to the Senda Darwin Biological Station (Chiloé Island) to learn about long-term ecological research on forest biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and plant-animal interactions in rural landscapes, and to the Omora Ethnobotanical Park to learn about the field environmental philosophy program, sub-Antarctic ecotourism and biocultural conservation in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve.

The course and the conference are co-organized by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB – Chile) and the Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG) in collaboration with the University of North Texas (UNT), the Center for Environmental Philosophy (CEP), and the Group of Environmental Thinking “Augusto Angel Maya” led by Dr. Patricia Noguera at the Department of Human Sciences and the Institute of Environmental Studies (IDEA), Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Campus Manizales.

For more information, contact

WORKSHOP – Conservation Ethics

Learn how to apply the principles of conservation ethics in a transparent, rational and critical manner to issues in conservation and management.  Presented by workshop leaders and founders of  The Conservation Ethics Group:

  • Michael P. Nelson, co-director  ( is an Associate Professor from Michigan State University.  He is an environmental philosopher.  Michael is well known as an Aldo Leopold scholar and his contributions to understanding how philosophical attitudes about “wilderness” affect land management.  Michael has also contributed to our understanding of how a critical examination of Ojibwa mythologies can be used to understand the richness and complexity of the environmental ethics held by this culture.  Michael is also called upon regularly by various government agencies to assist in understanding the ethical implications of management decisions.  To learn more about Michael’s professional activities click here.
  • John A. Vucetich, co-director  (  is an Assistant Professor from Michigan Technological University.  He is an ecologist who specializes in population biology.  He co-leads research on the internationally-recognized wolves and moose of Isle Royale.  John’s field experiences are intensive, and his publications include theoretical aspects of population biology and population genetics and the statistical modeling of ecological data.  John has also served as a science or policy advisor for wolf and ungulate management issues in Alaska, Alberta, Ontario, Scandinavia, Mongolia, New Mexico, and Michigan.

Background Information
Ethical claims are easily identified as statements that can be expressed as, “We ought to…”  While true, this leads many to think ethics is primarily concerned with telling other people how they ought to behave.  No.  Ethics is an academic discipline whose purview is to understand how one ought to behave.  This understanding is gained through the formal analysis of arguments associated with ethical claims about how we ought to behave.  As such, the academic field of ethics is more associated with logic than is commonly appreciated.

Conservation and natural resource management is ultimately about the analysis of claims like: “We ought to hunt this population, because…” or “We ought to conserve this land, in this way, because…”  In other words, Conservation and natural resource management are conservation ethics in action.

Ethical arguments are not fights, nor do they involve yelling.  An ethical argument is a conclusion (e.g., We ought to manage this population in this way.) preceded by a list of premises that are expected to support the conclusion.  Argument analysis is the most reliable way known to Western scholars for better understanding whether a conclusion is sound and valid.  But the analysis of arguments related to conservation is tricky and difficult business.  It involves identifying missing premises; assessing inference mistakes; assessing the reliability of premises; the interaction of premises drawn from far ranging perspectives, including ecology, sociology, politics, various ethical world views; understanding when unreliable premises undermine a conclusion, and when they don’t; communicating the technical results of argument analysis to broader audiences of stakeholders; and more.  In this workshop you will learn and practice skills that ethicists have developed for the analysis of arguments.

The future of success of conservation depends on the ability of stakeholders and decision-makers to effectively use of the principles of conservation ethics.  These are the principles on which we will focus during this workshop.

Workshop Format
The three-day workshop includes:

  •  Concepts and case studies in conservation ethics and argument analysis, presented by the workshop leaders
  •  Smaller- and larger-group discussions about those concepts
  •  Informal socialization for the purpose of developing a deeper sense of the concepts

A central activity will be working in small groups with the workshop leaders to develop an argument analysis for some specific challenge in conservation that is of interest to you.  That is, your group will decide the topic.  To maximize the learning experience, each small group will share the results of the argument analysis with the entire group at the end of the workshop.

For further information on workshop details and expectations please contact either Michael Nelson ( or John Vucetich (

Registration Information

  • The Conservation Ethics Workshop meets on campus October 28-30, 2011 in Missoula.
  • Space is limited to 20 participants
  • Please contact the presenters directly with any course content related questions.
  • For questions on how to register, contact the Ethics and Public Affairs Program at (406) 243-6605.
  • Choice of 2 graduate credits, with options for traditional letter grade, pass/fail, or audit.
  • If more than 15 people register for this workshop, all participants will receive a $50 rebate.
Fees Workshop Option (no credit)  2 Credit Option: Available for graduate credit only
Workshop Fee $340 $340
Credit Fee $0 $135
Total Cost $340 $475

Registration steps
For Workshop Option (no credit):

  • Print and send in the Conservation Ethics Registration Form, along with workshop fee payment ($340) to the “Program on Ethics and Public Affairs”.
  • For Credit Option (2 academic credits):
  • Print and send in the Conservation Ethics Registration Form, along with workshop fee payment ($340).
  • At our first meeting, you will also need to pay the credit recording fee ($135) directly to the School of Extended & Lifelong Learning. Forms will be provided.

This course is offered through the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center’s Program on Ethics and Public Affairs at The University of Montana  October 28-30, from 9:00am-5:00pm, with pre-course online work. All participants must pay a course fee to the Program on Ethics and Public Affairs and separate fees to UM School of Extended and Lifelong Learning for optional academic credit . Follow the steps described above to pay all relevant fees.

Difference between taking the course for credit or as a workshop: taking the course for academic credit requires an additional payment of $135 and is designed for those who want an academic record of their participation. This fee only applies for those wishing to receive a transcript: if you are not interested in receiving credit or a grade, you may prefer to take the course as a workshop.

If you do intend to take the course for credit and to transfer those credits to your home institution, we suggest that you check with your home institution before registering, as your institution may require you to make arrangements with your home institution’s registrar before attending our courses.

VIDEOCAST – Synthetic Biology & Biodiversity

Bryan Norton, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Science, and Technology in the School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology made a presentation to the Presidential Commission on the Study of Bioethics at meetings on ethical issues associated with synthetic biology.  The Commission meetings were held at the University of Pennsylvania on September 13-14, 2010.