Nonhuman Animals and Colonialism

Westerners may have physically left their old colonies in Africa and Asia, but they retained them not only as markets but as locales on the ideological map over which they continue to rule morally and intellectually. –Edward Said

A follow-up on Sunday's post about "Racism on Animal Planet." I watched Nature's Africa series over the last couple weeks. What interested me in the series was the promise of showing Africa through the eyes of the people who actually live there. In this way, the series consists of eight episodes with each episode covering a different geographical region of Africa through the personal stories of a couple different individuals in each region. While the first seven episodes focused exclusively on the stories of Africans, there was a sudden change up in the first part of the second half of episode eight.

Episode eight is primarily about the life of a Black woman from Johannesburg and a Black man from Lesotho, both of whom work different jobs in the Johannesburg gold mines. However, halfway through the episode, the filmmakers focus on a White colonial South African couple and their two White business partners from the US. The scene is of them all at the 2000 KZN Game Auction where they are attempting to purchase six black rhinos from a national park in Eastern South Africa. These are the only White people prominently featured in the entire series. (The only other White person in the series was a "big game" hunter briefly seen in episode six.)

The Whites featured in episode eight purchase the six black rhinos for $320,000 for their "dream" of opening a private game reserve. The narration talks about these White people combining business and conservation as the future of South Africa. We're told the gold mining business is on the way out and that tourism employees more people and is more important to the future of the region.

These White business-conservationists are the perfect example of Westerners' continual rule as described by Said. Along these lines, Johanna posted on Vegans of Color about how some nonhuman animal advocates believe that they "should be able to tell other countries NOT to eat creatures." This sounds just like what Said points out about the belief that Westerners should "continue to rule morally and intellectually."