Seminar Invitation. From Biopower to Ontopower? Violent Responses to Wildlife Crime and the New Geographies of Conservation

16 May 2017 - 14:15

The seminar hosted by the University of Cape Town, Institute for Safety Governance and Criminology will be held on Wednesday, 31 May 2017 from 17:30- 19:00 

The venue is the Moot Court, 5th Floor, Kramer Law Building, Middle Campus, University of Cape Town.

If you would like to attend please RSVP to before Monday 29 May. Refreshments will be served

Background to Seminar

Intensifying global dynamics of wildlife crime are rapidly reshaping conservation politics, practices and geographies. Most pronounced are the manifold violent responses to wildlife crime, including direct lethal action and increasing anticipatory action to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place.  Building on Brian Massumi’s exposition of ontopower – an ‘environmental power’ that “alters the life environment’s conditions of emergence” – Bram Büscher explores whether we are seeing a move from bio- to ontopower where the imperative is less the construction of systemic forms of governmentality to ensure life’s ‘optimization’ than on processually pre-empting incipient tendencies towards unknown but certain future threats to life. Drawing on empirical research on violent responses to rhino poaching in South Africa, he argues that we are seeing the uneven emergence of new geographies of conservation based on ontopower. He concludes by speculating whether conservation’s insecurity is turning into its preemptive other by making (green) war the sine-qua-non of non-human life’s conditions of emergence.


Bram Büscher is Professor and Chair of the Sociology of Development and Change group, Wageningen University, Netherlands; Visiting Professor at the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg; and Research Associate at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University. He currently holds a Van Zyl Slabbert visiting professorship at the University of Cape Town from April to June 2017.

His research interests revolve around the political economy of conservation and development, the politics of energy and extraction, ecotourism, new media and social theory. Bram has published over 65 articles in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes and is the author of ‘Transforming the Frontier. Peace Parks and the Politics of Neoliberal Conservation in Southern Africa’ (Duke University Press, 2013). 

The full paper is available for free download here: