The story begins with a dream – the dream of Africa. Virgin forests, majestic mountains surrounded by savanna, vast plains punctuated with the rhythms of animal life where lions, elephants and giraffes reign as lords of nature, far from civilization – all of us carry such images in our heads, imagining Africa as a timeless Eden untouched by the ravages of modernity.
But this Africa does not exist and has never existed. The more nature disappears in the West, the more we fantasize about it in Africa. The more we destroy nature here, the more energetically we try to save it there. Along with UNESCO, the WWF and other organizations, we convince ourselves that the African national parks are protecting the last vestiges of a world once untouched and wild.
In reality, argues Guillaume Blanc, these organizations are responsible for naturalizing large tracts of the African continent, turning territories into parks and forcibly evicting thousands of people from the lands where they have lived for centuries, subjecting them to violence and destroying their fields and grazing land in order to create a supposedly natural world where man has no place. Making use of unpublished archive materials and oral histories, Blanc investigates this battle for a phantom Africa and the contradictory claims of nations who destroy their own nature while believing that they are protecting the natural world abroad. In so doing, they enact a new type of colonialism: green colonialism.
History as a Starting Point: Preface to the English Edition
Chapter 1. Deconstructing our Beliefs, (Re)-thinking Nature
Chapter 2. Turning Africa into Parkland (1850-1960)
Chapter 3. A Special Project for Africa (1960-1965)
Chapter 4. The Expert and the Emperor (1965-1970)
Chapter 5. Violence Below the Surface of Nature (1970-1978)
Chapter 6. The Sustainable Development Trap (1978-1996)
Chapter 7. The Fiction of the Community Approach (1996-2009)
Chapter 8. The Roots of Injustice (2009-2019)
Looking Ahead: Afterword
Guillaume Blanc is a Lecturer in Contemporary History at Rennes 2 University.
"Blanc has created a masterpiece in contrasts that has much to teach us about nature conservation, "sustainable development", power and equity on a global scale. This book deserves a spot on the shelves of every major library, a large number of policymakers’ desks and the bedside tables of many ordinary folks interested in Africa, nature conservation, social justice or the sustainable development of our planet."
– Diana K. Davis, author of The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge
"Guillaume Blanc, with passion as well as thorough research, pushes his readers to think anew about the relationship between humans and animals in Africa. This book is both a valuable contribution to environmental history and an argument that needs to be taken seriously about the misconceptions that often shape international interventions in that continent."
– Frederick Cooper, author of Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present
– The Financial Times