The Virunga National Park (VNP), located in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is advertised as key to bringing peace to the region, which has been afflicted by armed conflicts for at least the past 30 years. The park’s management and donors argue that the VNP brings about economic development and stability, and helps to counter climate change, tying in with the global narrative of nature conservation. An increasing number of studies, however, also point at the VNP’s downsides, such as dispossessive enclosures, disempowerment of peasants, and contributions to causes of ongoing armed conflicts. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork in the region, this talk examines the role of the VNP in local migration patterns with special regard to the many internally displaced persons. It argues that the VNP contributes to increased social and environmental differentiation and contributes to local conflict dynamics by restricting local communities' access to resources.
Stephan Hochleithner was trained in Social Anthropology at the University of Vienna and holds a PhD in Political Geography from the University of Zürich. Stephan is currently involved in a project on temporary and incomplete enclosures at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests center on spatial aspects of socio-economic activities and structures, and the crossroads of material and social realms. Questions of access to resources and topics from political ecology inform Stephan’s strongly ethnographic empirical approach. His fieldwork and general research experience ranges from urban settings in Europe to rural settings in Central/East (DR Congo, Uganda, Tanzania) and Southern Africa (RSA, Namibia, Botswana).
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