Institutional Apartheid in the African Commons: On the Exclusion and Erasure of Indigenous Communities from Biodiversity Conservation

When and Where

Thursday, April 13, 2023 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Room 409
Stewart Building
149 College Street and Zoom


Dr. Kariuki Kirigia


This lecture is hybrid.

Zoom Link  
Meeting ID: 852 9947 6964
Passcode: 764049


The gravity of our planetary challenges today has reinvigorated earlier invocations of “Our Common Future”, which has impelled calls for the 30x30 global biodiversity conservation initiative. However, with 80% of biodiversity-rich areas under the custodianship of Indigenous communities around the world, it begs the question about which mechanisms are in place to protect and enhance Indigenous rights to territories of life and knowledge systems. This question is especially pertinent to the African context where Indigenous communities have been excluded from conservation governance and displaced from areas rich in biodiversity through violent militarized approaches perpetuated by African postcolonial states and conservation organizations. There are justified concerns, therefore, that conservation in the African context is largely synonymous with violence against Indigenous communities to the extent that conservation has been labelled as “CONservation” on multiple social media platforms. Dr Kirigia builds on his research in the rangelands of Kenya to unveil how violence in conservation not only decimates human life, but also impedes biodiversity conservation, which it ostensibly seeks to secure from “despoiling” Indigenous communities. Dr Kirigia couches this research within the tenets of environmental and climate justice, racial capitalism, and Africana existential and feminist philosophies to conceptualize conservation sites as spaces where environmental and climate injustices against African Indigenous communities are made logical, legitimate, and spectacular. This study in turn addresses these violent and exclusionary regimes of conservation by proposing radical participation, ownership, and stewardship of biodiversity conservation processes and spaces by African Indigenous communities as key to attaining convivial conservation in the African context. 


Dr Kariuki Kirigia is an FRQSC postdoctoral fellow at Concordia University in Montreal. His research focuses on the exclusion of African Indigenous and local communities from biodiversity conservation and land governance in African postcolonial contexts, and reactions from below against oppressive regimes. Dr Kirigia completed his doctoral studies in Anthropology at McGill University, and an MSc in Sustainability Science & International Development at Utrecht University. His doctoral research, carried out among the Olderkesi Maasai of Southern Kenya and within the Institutional Canopy of Conservation (I-CAN) project, was an ethnographic study of concurrent processes of dismantling the Maasai pastoral commons through land subdivision to create individual parcels of land, and preserving the commons to establish a community wildlife conservancy in Olderkesi. Dr Kirigia has previously conducted research on food security, wage labour, and social networks within the floriculture industry in Eastern Africa, youth and agriculture in Ghana, community-driven hydro-electricity projects in Kenya, and perspectives of undergraduate students on climate change in Canada. In Montreal, Kariuki is an active member of the African diaspora community through teaching, organizing, and advocating for African and Black Studies, and contributing to discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within institutions of higher education.

Contact Information

Stella Kyriakakis


149 College Street and Zoom