Rachel Aspden is a London-based journalist and the author of Generation Revolution: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East (2017). (March 2019)

Follow Rachel Aspden on Twitter: @rachelaspden.

NYR DAILY

The Political Economy of Safari

Phinda Private Game Reserve, Zululand, South Africa, 2002

Africa’s wild places became a scenic backdrop to Westerners’ feats of machismo. In the second half of the nineteenth century, hunting big game was seen as a way to stiffen the spine of upper-class British men at risk of “going soft” in luxurious Europe. But such rites, then as now, were only for “hunters,” not for “poachers.” As the safari industry took shape, white colonists were systematically severing the relationship between non-white local people, the land, and wildlife. At the same time, Western countries were laying the foundations of the modern idea of “conservation”: that African wildlife was under threat from ignorant and rapacious local people, and that white people were the only ones who could protect it.