Inverted Commons: Africa’s Nature in the Global Imagination


Nature in Africa has long occupied a special place in the global imagination. Focusing on the Serengeti, this essay argues that nature and natural resources in Africa are framed as “inverted commons”: a special commons that belongs to the entire globe, but for which only Africans pay the real price in terms of their conservation. This happens in two crucial ways. First, a variety of conservation actors, particularly from the West, actively frame Africa’s nature as a global commons that deserves protection for all of humanity. Second, the practical manifestation of this tactic increasingly revolves around “neoliberal conservation”: reinterpreting and re-institutionalizing African natures within ideologies of power and systems of rule dependent on market competition, commoditization, and intensified capital accumulation.