This article explores the doomsday vision of humans and other animals found in the nonfiction books, documentary films, and autobiography of former Frankfurt Zoological Garden director and television star Bernhard Grzimek. Focusing on his career transition in the 1940s and 1950s from veterinarian to zoological director to global conservation activist, the article shows that the Malthusian fears that underpinned Grzimek's plea for national parks in sub-Saharan Africa that segregated people and wildlife had their origins in an environmental Kulturkritik born of post-Nazi and Cold War ruminations about human aggression and environmental destruction. Grzimek portrayed both the zoo and the national park as compensation for a “great extinction” that linked the industrialized slaughterhouse in Europe to trophy hunting in Africa. This natural history of modernity envisioned a global nature commons beyond the ideologies of Christian humanism and social democracy, yet it enfolded Africans into a European narrative of development that left no room for cultural landscapes created by customary tenure and vernacular ecologies.
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Research Article| August 01 2016
Thomas Lekan; A Natural History of Modernity: Bernhard Grzimek and the Globalization of Environmental Kulturkritik. New German Critique 1 August 2016; 43 (2 (128)): 55–82. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-3511871
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