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Neoliberalising Nature? Elephant-Back Tourism in Thailand and Botswana

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This paper examines the case of elephant-back safaris in Thailand and Botswana; it argues that tourism has extended and deepened neoliberalism by targeting and opening up new frontiers in nature. In essence tourism redesigns and repackages nature for global consumption. Through a cross comparison of the same product (the use of captive/trained elephants) in two very different contexts (Thailand and Botswana) this paper analyses the variations in “actually existing neoliberalisms” ( Brenner and Theodore 2002) and demonstrates that the effects are not unremittingly negative ( Castree 2008b). It also draws out the ways that neoliberalism is challenged and reshaped by context specific processes and so it does not completely displace existing ways of approaching nature. Instead, existing approaches mix with neoliberalism to create new ways of valuing and conserving elephants.

Keywords: Botswana; Thailand; ecotourism; elephants; neoliberalism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Politics, Manchester University, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK; ,, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2010


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