A World Laboratory: Framing the Albert National Park

Raf de Bont*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Web of Science)


The Albert National Park in Belgian Congo was founded in 1925 on the initiative of a small but well-connected transnational network of naturalists, diplomats, and royals. Throughout the park's existence, this network discursively framed it as a place of scientific research and international collaboration, thus linking it with values of universalism and inclusiveness. The rhetoric of the park as a "world laboratory" facilitated the access of a global network of biologists and legitimized scientific management schemes to protect its so-called primitive character. While opened up to international scholars, the park was also closed off from unwanted human and nonhuman actors including the local population, tourists, and invasive species. After Congo's independence in 1960, the founding network lost its direct control over the country's national parks. But in the new geopolitical situation, the old rhetoric of universalism and internationalism was also useful to preserve its continued influence on the management of Congolese nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-432
Number of pages29
JournalEnvironmental History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017



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