Zoo Update

Its been almost two months since I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about plans for an African exhibit (which turned out to be more of a marketplace) at a zoo in Germany. This weekend Annariitta Grzonka (aka orangemcm, aka orange) posted an update on Ethno::log. It is a new report by Nina Glick Schiller, Data Dea and Markus Höhne, to be presented at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology this Thursday.

The 48 page report [PDF download] is entitled “African Culture and the Zoo in the 21 Century: The “African Village” in the Augsburg Zoo and Its Wider Implications” and is based on ethnographic research conducted before and during the event. It is really a mini-ethnography of the event. (It also contains color pictures.)

This bit from the report seems particularly relevant to the ongoing Savage Minds discussion about Live8.

There is little room in the picture of Africa disseminated by the humanitarians to acknowledge that many regions of Africa have vast riches in oil, uranium, diamonds, gold, coltran, and other minerals and that profit from this wealth flow into European, American, and now Chinese companies. Broader issues about globalization, about the contrasts between wealth and poverty in Africa’s vast cities, and about the history of African civilizations have no place in the images of Africa generated the way in which Africa was being presented in the zoo. The zoo event took place at the same time that the G8 was debating canceling the debt to Africa. News media was publicized that lack of money for health services and public education in Africa was related to the massive amount of wealth sent yearly to financial institutions to service the debt. The zoo visitors, with few exceptions, most of which were Africans or protestors, made no reference to these issues and portrayed Africa as uniformly poor and in need of “our help.” The linking of nature, Africans, and poverty does seem to contribute to drawing a line between Europe and Africa that makes it difficult to see the financial connections, at the very time that the press in Europe and some members of the G8 were acknowledging these connections.

See the Ethno::log post for the full executive summary of the report.