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Environment and History

The Politics of Fire and Forest Regeneration in Colonial Bengal

K. Sivaramakrishnan

Environment and History 2(1996): 145-94

This paper contends that recent scholarly interest in systems of colonising knowledge, whether called 'scientific forestry' or 'development', has paid inadequate attention to the historical processes shaping such knowledge production in specific colonial locations. Taking a processual approach, the paper examines the conflicted constitution of scientific forestry in India through regionally varied experiences of forest management in Bengal sal (Shorea robusta) forests. The case of fire, and disputes surrounding its perceived role in forest regeneration across eastern India, is used to understand and demonstrate the complex mutually transformative linkages between social categories like nature, culture, history and power.

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