UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Restrictions and resistance : an ethnographic study of marine park opposition in southeastern Tanzania Raycraft, Justin


The Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park (MBREMP) in southeastern Tanzania has been touted as a ‘win-win’ project in public discourses, given its potential mutual benefits for marine biodiversity and local resource users. In this thesis, however, I argue that residents of Msimbati, a large fishing village within its catchment area, oppose the marine park, citing its negative impacts on their everyday lives. Drawing on four months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Msimbati village, which included participant observation, forty in-depth interviews and four focus group discussions, this thesis examines the village residents’ specific reasons for contesting the MBREMP, and subsequently, the different forms of resistance they employ to mobilize their opposition to the marine park. Using the concept of environmental governance, I maintain that people in Msimbati have been excluded from significant processes of conservation-related decision-making. Consequently, the management priorities of the MBREMP underrepresent their perceived needs and well-being. Furthermore, many study participants perceived the introduction of conservation regulations within the MBREMP as overt assertions of state power intended to control and subjugate the people of Msimbati. I argue that this finding closely resembles Michel Foucault’s notion of governmentality. In response to this perceived top-down flow of power, I discuss the abilities of village residents to exercise their individual and collective agency through explicit acts of resistance against the MBREMP. I argue, however, that the fear of state violence deters most village residents from engaging in acts that convey visible opposition to the MBREMP. Many people in Msimbati instead choose to engage in subtle acts of noncompliance to the conservation regulations. These acts are entangled with material benefits and moral statements about customary rights to resources. They can also facilitate political mobility by undermining the success of the conservation effort, while simultaneously avoiding open confrontation with governing authorities. Ultimately, this thesis brings to the fore the on-the-ground complexities of marine conservation in a resource-dependent coastal fishing village in southeastern Tanzania. I demonstrate the importance of taking an ethnographic approach to understanding the nuanced and context-specific reasons for local opposition to marine protected area formation in coastal communities.

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