Date of Thesis

Spring 2018

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Major

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Amanda Wooden

Second Advisor

Peter Wilshusen

Third Advisor

Cymone Fourshey

Keywords

virunga, biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, discourse analysis, nature-society theory

Abstract

The recent western media attention surrounding Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has brought up significant scholarly questions about the discursive portrayal of “ideal” Natures. In this thesis, I undertake a discursive analysis of western media materials about Virunga National Park in order to understand how ideas of Nature are transnationally constructed. In order to do this, undertake an analysis of the western oriented discursive material associated with three socio-political processes within the park: green militarization, gorilla trekking, and the ecotourist industry. Ultimately, I conclude that the discursive material portrays a highly spectacularized and commodified “ideal” nature, which is consumed by western viewers, thus reinforcing the marginalization of alternative notions of the “natural” by global hegemonic forces. Drawing from alternative ideas of the “natural”, I highlight that in a world increasingly enveloped by what scholars coin as “capitalist ruination”, finding ways to problematize ideal nature discourses, such as those demonstrated through a study of Virunga, and thus develop new ways of thinking about human and nonhuman relationships is imperative.

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