Enclosing Nature in North Africa: National Parks and the Politics of Environmental History

Diana K. Davis

in Water on Sand

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199768677
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979608 | DOI:
Enclosing Nature in North Africa: National Parks and the Politics of Environmental History

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As the French conquered North Africa, they fabricated a tale of environmental change that held local North African populations, especially nomads, responsible for ruining what was widely believed in Europe to have been a lush, fertile, and forested environment in the classical past, before the “Arab invasions” of the eleventh century. While far from accurate, this French colonial environmental history served—beginning in 1830s Algeria—to undermine the lifeways of indigenous populations: justifying the expropriation of their land and property, alienating tribal forests to the French state, and sedentarizing nomads in the name of environmental protection. One of the most enduring symbols of this transformation may be found in the multiple national parks and nature reserves created by the French in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. Developed ostensibly to protect nature and provide areas for scientific study, in practice, parks were built primarily to generate tourism revenue while serving to further monitor and control “problematic populations.” This chapter explores the history of these national parks and the complex, frequently negative effects they had and continue to have on local populations and the environment.

Keywords: North Africa; national parks; French colonialism; pastoralism; nature reserves; indigenous rights; hunting; Algeria; Morocco; Tunisia

Chapter.  8101 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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