Power battles on South African trophy hunting farms: farm workers, resistance and mobility in the Karoo

By Femke Brandt

South Africa’s countryside is transforming through rapid and widespread farm conversions from agricultural land to wildlife enclosures. This paper, published in 2016, interprets trophy hunting as a reconfiguration process in which land, power and belonging are contested through relations between farmers, workers, the state and animals. The argument is based on ethnographic material generated in the Eastern Cape Karoo through engagements with farm workers and commercial – mostly English-speaking white farmers – who have established and gradually expanded their trophy-hunting farms catering for a predominantly foreign-affluent clientele. James Scott’s concept of a nonstate space is employed to show how the geographical and performative features of the hunting farm, and the hunting game itself, enables game farmers to assert their authority on the land. However, these attempts are constantly frustrated by ‘unruly’ and mobile humans and animals who resist and subvert these imagined ideals and real practices on the farms.