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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Empires of Forestry: Professional Forestry and State Power in Southeast Asia, Part 2

Peter Vandergeest and Nancy Lee Peluso

Environment and History 12(2006): 359-393

This paper examines the origins, spread and practices of professional forestry in Southeast Asia, focusing on key sites in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Part 1, in an earlier issue of this journal, challenged popular and scholarly accounts of colonial forestry as a set of simplifying practices exported from Europe and applied in the European colonies. We showed that professional forestry empires were constituted under colonialism through local politics that were specific to particular colonies and technically uncolonised regions. Part 2 looks at the influence on forestry of knowledge and management practices exchanged through professional-scientific networks. We find that while colonial forestry established some management patterns that were extended after the end of colonialism, it was post-colonial organisations such as the FAO that facilitated the construction of forestry as a kind of empire after World War Two. In both periods, new hybrid forestry practices were produced as compromises with the ideal German and FAO forestry models through interactions with local ecologies, economies and politics. These hybrid practices were incorporated into and helped constitute the two empire forestry networks.

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