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Wellbeing on the Edge: The dynamics of Musundian edge- dwelling on the boundaries of protected natural areas in Limpopo, South Africa

Abrams, Amber L. (2018) Wellbeing on the Edge: The dynamics of Musundian edge- dwelling on the boundaries of protected natural areas in Limpopo, South Africa. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:69644)

Language: English

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This thesis examines the impacts of a protected natural area (Makuya park) on residents of Musunda village in Limpopo, South Africa. The creation of protected natural areas entails the formation of boundaries to limit access and resource use, often under the assumption that the isolation from human activity will allow 'natural' environments/habitats to re-emerge. When humans are not afforded a place in protected spaces, 'edge-dwellers' emerge. This thesis explores how the resulting changes in land use and access can impact the availability, distribution, and quality of strategically important resources, and thus influence a wide range of ecological, epidemiological, and economic processes that directly and indirectly impinge on an individual's wellbeing. Based on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in the HaMakuya chieftaincy, this thesis aims to explore the tangible and intangible ways in which Makuya park impacts on Musundian edge-dwellers efforts to achieve wellbeing.

Specific research questions include: How do edge-dwellers understand, discuss, and enact wellbeing? How and when are natural resources used toward achieving wellbeing? How and when does land access shape land use in terms of wellbeing and in what ways? Have shifts in practices occurred as a result of the formation of protected areas? I address these questions by engaging with current debates in social, medical and environmental anthropology. Using Cohen's (2013) 'ecologies of wellbeing' as a matrix through which to explore local conceptions of health/wellbeing (mutakalo), this thesis engages with a historical 'political ecology of health' (Harper 2002) and conservation to consider health and wellbeing within 'environmental perspectives' (McElroy and Townsend 2009). In focusing on the everyday practices of Musundians, this thesis foregrounds local notions of health (mutakalo) and local perceptions of natural resource limitations imposed by the park as a way to understand edge-dwellers' local ecologies of wellbeing. This thesis provides TshiVenda speakers' (an under-represented group) perspectives; it shows the negative impacts that the park has on resource access, diet, relationships and local healing practices according to edge-dwellers. Questioning how Musundians maintained ambivalence in these challenging circumstances, I discuss how I came to realize that the park is locally understood to offer the promise of 'good things.' Exploring the ways in which hope and the park intersect, I describe how the park has become incorporated into local ecologies of wellbeing. This thesis explores some wellbeing-related experiences of Musunda's edge-dwellers, while considering the park's influence on those dwelling on the boundary of a protected natural area thereby contributing to social anthropology scholarship at the intersection of environmental and medical anthropology. In doing this, this thesis draws on related disciplines in the social sciences, contributing to literatures in human geography, public health and ecology.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Alexiades, Dr. Miguel
Thesis advisor: Peluso, Dr. Daniela
Uncontrolled keywords: Anthropology Medical Anthropology Environmental Anthropology Conservation
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2018 12:10 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 10:41 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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