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Civilizing Nature

Civilizing Nature: National Parks in Global Historical Perspective

Bernhard Gissibl
Sabine Höhler
Patrick Kupper
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Civilizing Nature
    Book Description:

    National parks are one of the most important and successful institutions in global environmentalism. Since their first designation in the United States in the 1860s and 1870s they have become a global phenomenon. The development of these ecological and political systems cannot be understood as a simple reaction to mounting environmental problems, nor can it be explained by the spread of environmental sensibilities. Shifting the focus from the usual emphasis on national parks in the United States, this volume adopts an historical and transnational perspective on the global geography of protected areas and its changes over time. It focuses especially on the actors, networks, mechanisms, arenas, and institutions responsible for the global spread of the national park and the associated utilization and mobilization of asymmetrical relationships of power and knowledge, contributing to scholarly discussions of globalization and the emergence of global environmental institutions and governance.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-527-7
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Towards a Global History of National Parks
    (pp. 1-28)
    Bernhard Gissibl, Sabine Höhler and Patrick Kupper

    National parks and related forms of protected areas have been the most important tool of nature conservation since the late nineteenth century. Ever since the United States invented the label of a ‘national park’ to preserve the natural wonders of Yellowstone in 1872, the idea of confining ‘nature’ to a ‘park’ and assigning it the status of a national heritage has been transferred to a wide and diverse range of political, social and ecological settings. At the moment of this writing, national governments have officially assigned some degree of protection to around 130,000 areas, i.e. almost 13 per cent of...


    • CHAPTER 1 Unpacking Yellowstone: The American National Park in Global Perspective
      (pp. 31-49)
      Karen Jones

      On 19 September 1870, the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition struck camp on the Yellowstone Plateau. Over the campfire, the group ruminated on a three-week-long Rocky Mountain adventure that had taken in towering peaks, crashing waterfalls, spouting geysers and otherworldly mineral deposits. In keeping with the modish ethos of westward expansionism, discussion swiftly focused on territorial claims, profit and tourist potential. Judge Cornelius Hedges turned to his compatriots and instead proposed that the area be ‘set apart as a great National Park’. Fellow explorer Nathaniel Langford later remarked, ‘His suggestion met with an instantaneous and favorable response … I lay awake half of...

    • CHAPTER 2 How National Were the First National Parks? Comparative Perspectives from the British Settler Societies
      (pp. 50-67)
      Melissa Harper and Richard White

      The original concept of the national park – a large tract of land left in what was regarded as its ‘natural’ state, protected and managed for both conservation and recreation – was invented in the late nineteenth century, a gift of the ‘new world’ to the old.¹ The first wave of national parks appeared in British settler societies: in the United States (Yellowstone, 1872), Australia (Sydney, 1879), Canada (Banff, 1885) and New Zealand (Tongariro, 1887). Although South Africa, the other major British settler society, also began conserving large game reserves in the late nineteenth century (with direct reference to Yellowstone), they were...

    • CHAPTER 3 Imperial Preservation and Landscape Reclamation: National Parks and Natural Reserves in French Colonial Africa
      (pp. 68-83)
      Caroline Ford

      Much of the historical literature on the creation of national parks in the British Empire and in British settler societies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) has emphasized how the American model, as embodied in Yellowstone National Park, with its emphasis on civilizing, naturalizing and nationalizing nature; on scenic preservation and on tourism, was imitated, ‘translated’ or transformed. As a result, many historians have assumed that Yellowstone became a kind of global template or prototype for the national park. In addition, most historians of the British Empire have argued that the first initiatives to create parks emerged primarily from the campaign to...

    • CHAPTER 4 From Colonial Imposition to National Icon: Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park
      (pp. 84-101)
      Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells

      The national park concept is perceived by some as incongruous and problematic with reference to the developing world associated with poverty, land shortage and subsistence economies. Such critics see community-based forests, akin to traditionally protected areas, such as sacred groves, as more appropriate and viable alternatives.¹ Malaysia’s Taman Negara, on the contrary, makes a case for protected areas where circumstances favorable to rapid economic change have conditioned a different development trajectory. Helped by the easy transition of a relatively small peasant population from a forest- to a cash-crop rubber and oil palm economy,² the national park concept has served as...

    • CHAPTER 5 A Bavarian Serengeti: Space, Race and Time in the Entangled History of Nature Conservation in East Africa and Germany
      (pp. 102-120)
      Bernhard Gissibl

      In 1964, the Frankfurt Zoo director and conservation celebrity Bernhard Grzimek approached the government of the German federal state of Hesse with the plan to establish a ‘new kind of landscape zoo’ in the forested mountain range of the Taunus. As an outpost of the Frankfurt Zoo, the proposedTierfreiheitshould translate the wildlife experience of East Africa’s national parks into Germany’s cultural landscape. European and exotic game were to be kept together in herds in one single, vast estate, and zebras and antelopes as well as European bison, beavers, lynxes and wild horses should be allowed to roam unimpeded...


    • CHAPTER 6 Translating Yellowstone: Early European National Parks, Weltnaturschutz and the Swiss Model
      (pp. 123-139)
      Patrick Kupper

      Europe is not a primary place for national parks. In 2003, the continent’s share was only 7 percent of the global number of national park sites and a mere 2 percent of the global area.¹ These figures seem to suggest that one is better off investigating national parks and their history in other places and, indeed, the European continent has received comparatively little attention. Furthermore, methodological nationalism, which prevailed in the field of history until recently, hindered a transnational approach to the topic. For the most part historical accounts have been limited to the national level, which has resulted in...

    • CHAPTER 7 Framing the Heritage of Mankind: National Parks on the International Agenda
      (pp. 140-156)
      Anna-Katharina Wöbse

      The homepage of the American National Park Service gives a remarkable account of the genesis of the United Nations’ World Heritage Convention. According to its interpretation, the concept of World Heritage represents the globalized climax of a straight success story made in America – that of a mission fulfilled:

      The United States established Yellowstone as a national park in 1872 and initiated the world-wide movement to protect such areas as national treasures. One hundred years later … the United States proposed the World Heritage Convention to the international community and was the first nation to ratify it. The World Heritage Convention,...

    • CHAPTER 8 Global Values, Local Politics: Inuit Internationalism and the Establishment of Northern Yukon National Park
      (pp. 157-172)
      Brad Martin

      Since the dawn of the conservation movement, the creation of national parks and other protected areas has often forced the removal of indigenous peoples from their traditional homelands and caused serious harm in their communities. In diverse regions of the globe, imperial, national and international efforts to ‘civilize nature’ by imposing Western conservation practices have undermined subsistence economies and contributed to the erosion of native institutions and cultural values. Such impositions have left a legacy of bitterness in some quarters and given rise to various forms of opposition rooted in distinctive moral ecologies. Not surprisingly, then, interactions between indigenous peoples...

    • CHAPTER 9 Demarcating Wilderness and Disciplining Wildlife: Radio Tracking Large Carnivores in Yellowstone and Chitwan National Parks
      (pp. 173-188)
      Etienne Benson

      In the twentieth century, as national parks became sites for scientific research and objects of scientific management, they began – tentatively and incompletely – to leave behind their roots in nineteenth-century landscape aesthetics. Some new parks were established as scientific preserves where scientists could study apparently pristine ecosystems with minimal interference from competing human activities. Many existing parks, historically oriented toward recreation and nature preservation, found themselves caught between two visions. While they made room for park-based scientific research and attempted to integrate science into their management and interpretation practices, they also sought to prevent research and science-based management from undermining their...


    • CHAPTER 10 A Revolutionary Civilization: National Parks, Transnational Exchanges and the Construction of Modern Mexico
      (pp. 191-205)
      Emily Wakild

      Between 1934 and 1940, Mexican bureaucrats created and administered forty national parks. An average of 20,000 hectares in size, the majority of these parks resided within one hundred kilometres of the nation’s capital and contained coniferous forests. The contents of these parks embodied neither wilderness nor distant frontiers but instead marked a civilized combination of accessibility and symbolic nature in the territory recognized by the social-reform-minded government as central to the nation’s past. The timing, intention and process of national park creation in Mexico reveals a unique combination of revolutionary social reforms, transnational intellectual exchanges and widespread political incorporation that...

    • CHAPTER 11 Parks without Wilderness, Wilderness without Parks? Assigning National Park Status to Dutch Manmade Landscapes and Colonial Game Reserves
      (pp. 206-223)
      Henny J. van der Windt

      The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and has one of the world’s most heavily cultivated landscapes. It is famous for its manmade dikes and polders, but not so much for its national parks. Therefore, it could come as a surprise to learn that the Netherlands has twenty national parks, comprising 3 per cent of its land mass, thereby outdoing many countries, including the United States. This raises the question of how the concept of the national park came to be applied in a country such as the Netherlands, which had already been thoroughly...

    • CHAPTER 12 Globalizing Nature: National Parks, Tiger Reserves and Biosphere Reserves in Independent India
      (pp. 224-239)
      Michael Lewis

      On 11 June 1972, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressed the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm. Gandhi was the only head of state to attend, and she had the honour of giving the last formal address. Her comments electrified the gathered delegates, as she spoke forcefully of the simultaneous need to both preserve nature and address human inequities. In the most memorable section of her address, she asked:

      Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters? For instance, unless we are in a position to provide employment and purchasing power for the daily necessities of the tribal people...

    • CHAPTER 13 Slovenia’s Triglav National Park: From Imperial Borderland to National Ethnoscape
      (pp. 240-255)
      Carolin Firouzeh Roeder

      Throughout Europe’s history, the Alps have served as a topographical divider and unifier alike.¹ On today’s map, the southeastern part of the continent’s grand mountain range, the Julian Alps, constitutes the meeting point of Italy, Austria and Slovenia. The core area of the Julian Alps is nowadays part of the Triglav National Park, which received its name from the highest peak of the mountain range. Although the park was founded in its current borders only in 1981, the idea to create a protection regime in the Julian Alps reaches back into the late Habsburg period. Due to thislongue dureé,...

  10. EPILOGUE: National Parks, Civilization and Globalization
    (pp. 256-265)
    Jane Carruthers

    As almost everyone knows, Yellowstone, the renowned national park, was established in 1872. Some have argued that it was a religious, transcendentalist form of land appreciation, others that it was designed to minimize class conflict in a rampantly capitalist new nation and yet others that it was an attempt to prevent the area from becoming another ruined and exploited natural wonder, as had happened to Niagara Falls. Familiarity with this chronology and background goes a considerable way to explaining how and why such a form of land use and its governance came into being in the United States, and the...

  11. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 266-272)
  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 273-276)
  13. Index
    (pp. 277-294)