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Although understudied in academia and mostly unheard of by the general public, the in situ/ex situ dichotomy has shaped — and still very much shapes — the development of the nature conservation movement and its institutional alliances in the last few decades. Latin for “in” and “out” of place, the in/ex situ dichotomy often stands for the seemingly less scientific dichotomy between wild nature and captivity. Drawing on ethnographic engagements with zoo professionals and wildlife managers, this article explores the evolution of the in situ/ex situ dyad in nature conservation, which traverses the worlds of dead and live matter, artificilia and naturalia, and the seemingly disconnected institutions of museums and zoos, game parks, and nature reserves. Drawing on animal and relational geography, the article suggests that the assumptions underlying the in situ versus ex situ divide in conservation are anachronistic, romantic, and unsustainable and that they are incompatible with ideas of naturecultures and multinatures and with non-traditional perceptions of space. Eventually, this grounded study of conservation discourses and practices highlights the possibility of conservation management without nature.

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© 2013 Elsevier Ltd. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/