Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Lori Hunter

Second Advisor

Mara Goldman

Third Advisor

Sanyu Mojola

Abstract

This dissertation examines the implications of the convergence of wildlife conservation and the HIV/AIDS epidemic for knowledge, practice, and policy within northern Tanzanian conservation organizations, spaces and the lives of conservation professionals. Utilizing political ecology and science and technology studies theoretical frameworks, coupled with aspects of feminist and post-structural thought, I demonstrate that articulations between HIV/AIDS and wildlife conservation are shaped by historical forces, international political economies, macro-structural forces, embodied localized knowledge and understandings, and discursive regimes of truth and resistances to them. To illuminate these complex webs of meaning and practice, I question (a) the profound ways in which historical trajectories shape the current epidemic, (b) how epidemiological drivers of HIV/AIDS are understood by conservation professionals, (c) the specific mechanisms through which actors perceive their professional and personal lives to be impacted by HIV/AIDS, and (d) what conservation organizations are doing to mitigate such impacts as well as how conservation professionals respond to organizationally sanctioned efforts. Utilizing qualitative methods, primarily semi-structured individual interviews and ethnographic observation, I contend the answers to such questions are located in a series of tensions, ruptures, and frictions. Mediated by professional status and educational attainment, a seemingly homogeneous group--wildlife conservation professionals in northern Tanzania--offer contradictory explanations of the forces driving the continued transmission of HIV. While several studies have addressed a multitude of materially based HIV/AIDS-related impacts to the conservation establishment, I elaborate a second important category of impact: those based in discursive understandings of risk. Lastly, some efforts of conservation organizations to reduce the continued transmission of the virus have been met with significant resistance from the very people they are intended to help. This work presents a valuable case study highlighting why HIV/AIDS matters for the protected areas and the people inside and around them and how utilizing the conservation establishment as a setting for such an investigation exposes certain contradictions in the ways conservation professionals understand their relationship to, knowledge of, responses to, and experiences of HIV/AIDS within the neoliberal wildlife conservation settings of northern Tanzania. Recognizing these ambiguities and frictions is useful for understanding and mitigating the epidemic.

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