On being done with: the ends of conservation

As part of the Historical Materialism 2023 conference in London, Tahani Nadim presented in the panel "Monstrous Futures", on 23 November 2023

In the context of the Historical Materialism 2023 conference Tahani
Nadim was part of the panel "Monstrous Futures" organized by Sarah James
and TJ Demos. The panel participants included Rizvana Bradley, Imani
Jacqui Brown and Anselm Franke.AbstractThe
forecasting of monstrous futures represents an efficacious instrument in
the repertoire of nature conservation efforts. It mobilises capital and
sentiments while at the same time normalizing continuous scientific
accompaniments dedicated to monitoring, measuring and intervention. In
the context of nature conservation, a range of procedures is deployed to
maintain animal populations and habitats. These include enclosing
lands, freezing biological tissue, and breeding (captive) animals but
also building ever more complex data-based ‘solutions’ for predicting
and modelling population trends. Scholars, practitioners and activists
have pointed out the ways in which these practices reproduce the very
rationalities and, importantly, infrastructures which are causing
ecological devastation and social ruination. On one hand, this critique
has focused on the continuity of colonial relations, particularly
concerning the use of protected areas which are linked to state-led
evictions and dispossessions. On the other hand, critical perspectives
have drawn attention to the increasing securitization and militarization
happening in the wake or under the guise of environmental protection,
such as surveillance and anti-poaching efforts. It appears then that the
monstrosity of extinction begets monsters of conservation. In this
paper I wish to examine this transduction by focusing on its temporal
conjunctures and contradictions, such as persisting pasts and uneven
presents. Honing in on the temporal politics of conservation, I want to
ask about the kinds of endings it refuses and, more generally, the
transformative temporalities we might recover from critically attending
to conservation practices.