Bianca Volk, M.A.

PhD candidate

Georg-August  University Göttingen
Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology
Theaterplatz 15
D-37073 Göttingen

bvolk@sowi.uni-goettingen.de
+49 551 39-395573

Office hours by appointment.

Biography

07/2010 to present Research assistant and PhD candidate at University of Göttingen, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology. Dissertation working title ‘W National Park as a field of political interaction: actors, resources, conflicts’. Supervisor: Prof. Nikolaus Schareika.

09/2008 to 06/2010 Research assistant and PhD candidate at University of Mainz, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology.

08-2008 Magistra Artium in Social Anthropology, University of Mainz. MA thesis title ‘Talking about Marriage… Polizeiarbeit in der Upper West Region, Ghana‘. Supervisor: Prof. Carola Lentz.

2001-2008 Studies in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology at Universities of Mainz and Warsaw.

Research Interests

Regional: West Africa (Ghana, Benin)

Topical: Political and legal anthropology, anthropology of the state, anthropology of environmentalism, national parks, science and technology studies

Research Experiences

09/2006 to 12/2006 participant observation of everyday police work in a police headquarters in Northern Ghana. Research project ‘States at Work. Public Services and Civil Servants in West Africa: Education and Justice in Benin, Ghana, Malin and Niger’ funded by Volkswagen Foundation.

12/2008 to 12/2010 and 06/2013 14 months of participant observation in buffer zone communities South of National Park W, Benin. Research project BIOTA-West III funded by BMBF, subproject ‘The Socio-political Dimension of Land Use and Biodiversity Conservation in West Africa’.

Abstract of dissertation project

W National Park as a field of political interaction: actors, resources, conflicts.

Parks in sub-Saharan Africa are often represented as the world’s last ‘wilderness areas’. Since the 1990s, the conservationist regime of ‘W’ national park in Northern Benin has become stricter, with donor projects allocating funds and logistical support to park administration. At about the same time, participatory management projects have taken shape in the region. Village organizations have been established in order to diversify and democratize conservation, while outreach programs have been created to teach people how to live sustainably from their surrounding resources. Social actors on multiple levels, from village members to national government officials, are now engaged in an ongoing process of negotiation about the comparative importance of rural development or conservation, about who defines rights and property, as well as who enforces law and how. Meanwhile, rangers, foresters and trackers monitor the area in order to defend species as well as landscapes from (over-)exploitation. These paramilitary units often regard themselves as the only truly conservationists, while portraying local practices as a serious threat to the environment.

My study focuses on the ways that people debate access to ‘natural’ as well as symbolic resources while referring to the abstract legal/ideological structure of the national park. The aim of the study is to describe the social reality of a West African protected area, with a particular focus on the perspectives of those people who are employed to protect it. It contributes to the literature on protected areas as it provides detailed insights into daily routines of park surveillance personnel and the negotiation processes they are involved in. The study is located in West Africa, a region that has been largely unexplored in terms of national park research.

Working Papers

2009 „Talking about Marriage…“. Polizeiarbeit in der Upper West Region, Ghana. Arbeitspapiere des Instituts für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien der Universität Mainz, Nr. 102.

2009 with Gifty Amo-Antwi, Jan Beek et al.: ”They are not enlightened”. Wie Staatsbedienstete in Nordghana Differenz zwischen sich und ihren Klienten konstruieren. Arbeitspapiere des Instituts für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien der Universität Mainz, Nr. 97.

Presentations

07/2012 Nez à nez avec le parc: Grenzziehungen im Nationalpark W, Nordbenin, given at the colloquium of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Göttingen.

11/2010 „La nature nous protège“: déscription du conflit de limite dans la périphérie du Parc National du W, given at the monthly research colloquium at LASDEL, Parakou, Benin.

04/2010 with Sascha Kesseler: Interaktive Positionierung Beniner Wildhüter: Zwischen Kooperation und Konfrontation, given at the conference of the German Africanist Association (VAD) ‘Kontinuitäten und Brüche. 50 Jahre Unabhängigkeit in Afrika‘, Mainz.

01/2010 with Sascha Kesseler: Anthropologie Sociale et Conservation: L´Apport des Anthropologues à la Gestion des Ressources Naturelles, given at the final conference of the research project BIOTA-West, Ouagadougou.

12/2009 Debating the buffer zone of ‘W’ national park. Given at the final conference of the research project ‘States at Work. Public Services and Civil Servants in West Africa: Education and Justice in Benin, Ghana, Malin and Niger’, Niamey.

Teaching

Winter 2011-12 Ethnographien des Staates

Winter 2012-13 Unity in Diversity: Ghana

Summer 2013 Places without people? Nationalparks in Afrika