Custodians of the Cape Peninsula : a historical and contemporary ethnography of urban conservation in Cape Town

Swanepoel, Janie (2013-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The official custodian of the Cape Peninsula mountain chain, located at the centre of Cape Town, is the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP). This park is South Africa’s only urban open-access park and has been declared a World Heritage Site. This thesis is an anthropological and historical examination of the past and present conservation of the Cape Peninsula . I provide an overview of the relationship between the urban environment and the Cape Peninsula aiming to illustrate the produced character of the mountains and its mediation in power relations. This study of custodianship reveals that protecting and conserving the Cape Peninsula is shaped by the politics of the urban and natural environment as well as by the experience of living in the city. As such, official and unofficial custodianship is informed by class and race differentiations, embedded in the politics of identity, responsive to the local and national political transformations in governance and connected to the urban struggles of the marginalised Capetonians. Furthermore, inherent in the notion of custodianship is the social appropriation of the Cape Peninsula which was shown to produce specific ideological representations of nature. The thesis presents an ethnographic study of Hangberg, a poor neighbourhood situated at the border of the TMNP. There, the encroachments and poaching within the park boundaries is addressed by focussing on the competing discourses between biodiversity, entitlement and heritage. The engagements between the TMNP, the state and Hangberg on the issues of conservation reveal the distinct complexities of running a national park in a city beset with inequalities. My focus on these engagements also illustrates that the manifestation of ‘community’ is a construction contingent upon circumstances which reflect a meaningful and political relationship between identity, citizenship and place, rather than a homogeneous group of people. I conclude with the idea that in attempting to make the park socially and racially equitable, urban conservation ought to begin to recognise its distinct urban character in the larger socio-environmental framework of the city.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die offisiële beskermheer van die Kaapse Skiereiland Bergreeks, geleë in die sentrum van Kaapstad, is die Tafelberg Nasionale Park (TNP). Die park is Suid-Afrika se enigste stedelike en oop-toegangspark en is verklaar as ’n Wêreld Erfenis Gebied. Hierdie tesis is ’n antropologiese en historiese studie van die huidige en geskiedkundige beskerming van die Kaapse Skiereiland. ’n Oorsig van die verhouding tussen die stedelike omgewing en die Kaapse Skiereiland ontbloot die geproduseerde karakter van die bergreeks en die bemiddeling daarvan in magsverhoudinge. ’n Studie van die beskermheerders van die Kaapse Skiereiland toon aan dat die beskerming en bewaring van die bergreeks (of dele daarvan) afhanklik is van die stedelike en nasionale politieke klimaat en die ervaring van ’n stedelike lewe. Sodoende word offisiële en nie-offisiële kuratorskap as klas- en ras-onderskeibaar, ingebed in identiteitspolitiek, verwant aan die plaaslike en nasionale politieke transformasies in die regering, en verbonde aan die stryd van armes in Kaapstad gedefinieer. Verder, inherent aan kuratorskap is die sosiale toe-eiening van die Kaapse Skiereiland wat spesifieke ideologiese voorstellings van die natuur in die stad produseer. Die tesis bied’n etnografiese studie van Hangberg aan, ’n arm woonbuurt geleë op die grens van die TNP. Ek bespreek die onwettige behuising en stropery binne die park se grense deur te fokus op die kompeterende diskoerse tussen biodiversiteit, regte en erfenis. Die onderhandelinge tussen die TNP, die staat, en Hangberg in verband met die kwessies rondom bewaring ontbloot die spesifieke kompleksiteit daarvan om ’n nasionale park in ’n stad geteister deur ongelykhede te bestuur. Hierdie fokus illustreer dat ‘gemeenskap’ manifesteer as ’n konstruksie wat afhanklik is van omstandighede en dui op ’n betekenisvolle en politieke verhouding tussen identiteit, burgerskap en plek, eerder as ’n homogene groep. Ek sluit af met die idee dat in ’n poging om die TNP meer sosiaal- en ras-inklusief te maak, behoort stedelike bewaring die spesifieke stedelike karakter daarvan te erken in die groter sosialeomgewingsraamwerk van die stad.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85810
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