Beyond the Sacred Forest

Complicating Conservation in Southeast Asia

Beyond the Sacred Forest

New Ecologies for the Twenty-First Century

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Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 7 tables, 10 maps, 11 figures Published: April 2011

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > Southeast Asia, Environmental Studies

Reflecting new thinking about conservation in Southeast Asia, Beyond the Sacred Forest is the product of a unique, decade-long, interdisciplinary collaboration involving research in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Scholars from these countries and the United States rethink the translation of environmental concepts between East and West, particularly ideas of nature and culture; the meaning of conservation; and the ways that conservation policy is applied and transformed in the everyday landscapes of Southeast Asia. The contributors focus more on folk, community, and vernacular conservation discourses than on those of formal institutions and the state. They reject the notion that conservation only takes place in bounded, static, otherworldly spaces such as protected areas or sacred forests. Thick with ethnographic detail, their essays move beyond the forest to agriculture and other land uses, leave behind orthodox notions of the sacred, discard outdated ideas of environmental harmony and stasis, and reject views of the environment that seek to avoid or escape politics. Natural-resource managers and policymakers who work with this more complicated vision of nature and culture are likely to enjoy more enduring success than those who simply seek to remove the influence and impact of humans from conserved landscapes. As many of the essays suggest, this requires the ability to manage contradictions, to relinquish orthodox ideas of what conservation looks like, and to practice continuously adaptive management techniques.

Contributors. Upik Djalins, Amity A. Doolittle, Michael R. Dove, Levita Duhaylungsod, Emily E. Harwell, Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells, Lye Tuck-Po, Percy E. Sajise, Endah Sulistyawati, Yunita T. Winarto


Beyond the Sacred Forest offers an admirable interdisciplinary and collaborative effort focussed on conservation in the Southeast Asian region. The overarching argument is that attention to social, political, historical and economic issues is critical to understanding outcomes from conservation initiatives. . . . Overall, this collection will stand on the strength of its impressive interdisciplinarity and collaborative effort, which will offer a solid resource and research model for scholars of the region as well as for resource managers and development practitioners.” — Sarinda Singh, Anthropological Forum

“Most chapters in this volume provide an empirically rich and theoretically grounded account of the complexity of national and local environmental politics at the interface of forest and agriculture in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and will be welcomed by many scholars, students and decision-makers in the field of natural resource conservation.” — Andreas Neef, Southeast Asian Studies

“This dense and rich book reminds readers that conservation is difficult to reduce to predefined concepts of social agency or environmental quality. The obvious readers will be scholars of political ecology, development and anthropology. But its message should be communicated more broadly: simplistic approaches to conservation lack accuracy; and transferable lessons can be drawn from contextual work.” — Tim Forsyth, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

“Beyond the Sacred Forest: Complicating Conservation in Southeast Asia presents an extensive and well researched critique on conservation strategies in Southeast Asia. ... [It] is a commendable book for students and managers of conservation and sustainable development programs.” — Henry Chan, Asian Anthropology

“Beyond the Sacred Forest develops new perspectives and insights about how conservation policy and practice can no longer afford to achieve its objectives by reinvesting in older, dualistic categories that oversimplify the process and outcomes of local interventions. The book represents an excellent attempt to move conservation thinking and practice beyond its colonial-era hangover.” — Wolfram Dressler, Pacific Affairs

“The overall quality of the scholarship and the writing in Beyond the Sacred Forest is very high, and the book will be of interest to scholars and practitioners working on conservation, natural resource management, and agrarian political economy in Southeast Asia and beyond. . . .  In setting up the volume, the editors do not give their contributors a set of marching orders; rather, they lay out the broad contours of a field of research and allow the chapters to take their places within it. This approach to framing the chapters complements the book’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and its argument that deviations from master plans, skepticism about equilibrium states, and conflict are all potentially positive and productive.” — Derek Hall, Sojourn

Beyond the Sacred Forest’s studies are an important step towards revising our understanding of relationships between humans and non-human domains in Southeast Asia, and they provide excellent and clear material for teaching.” — Guido Sprenger, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde

Complicating Conservation in Southeast Asia is a sophisticated and thoughtful engagement with fundamental conceptual pillars of modern-day conservation politics. Based on sustained and systematic field-based studies enriched by deep theoretical development, this book’s ideas will educate students and decision makers alike as they grapple with the meanings of progress, justice, and sustainability as shaped via the complex interplay among nature, power, and culture.” — Arun Agrawal, author of Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michael R. Dove is the Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Director of the Tropical Resources Institute, and Professor of Anthropology, at Yale University.

Percy E. Sajise is an Honorary Research Fellow of Biodiversity International, an Adjunct Fellow at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Philippines), and Adjunct Professor in the School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños.

Amity A. Doolittle is a Lecturer and Associate Research Scientist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series vii

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

Introduction: Changing Ways of Thinking about the Relations between Society and Environment / Michael R. Dove, Percy E. Sajise, and Amity A. Doolittle 1

Section I. The Boundary Between Natural and Social Reproduction

1. The Wild and the Tame in Protected Areas Management in Peninsular Malaysia / Lye Tuck-Po 37

2. The Implications of Plantation Agriculture for Biodiversity in Peninsular Malaysia: A Historical Analysis / Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells 62

3. Rubber Kills the Land and Saves the Community: An Undisciplined Commodity / Michael R. Dove 91

Section II. Community Rights Discourses through Time

4. Adat Argument and Discursive Power: Land Tenure Struggles in Krui, Indonesia / Upik Djalins 123

5. Redefining Native Customary Law: Struggles over Property Rights between Native Peoples and Colonial Rulers in Sabah, Malaysia, 1950–1996 / Amity A. Doolittle 151

6. The Social Life of Boundaries: Competing Territorial Claims and Conservation Planning in the Danau Sentarum Wildlife Reserve, West Kalimantan, Indonesia / Emily E. Harwell 180

7. Interpreting "Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Resource Use": The Case of the T'Boli in the Southern Philippines / Levita Duhaylungsod 216

Section III. Reconstructing and Representing Indigenous Environmental Knowledge

8. The Historical Demography of Resource Use in a Swidden Community in West Kalimantan / Endah Sulistyawati 239

9. The Ecological Implications of Central versus Local Governance: The Contest over Integrated Pest Management in Indonesia / Yunita T. Winarto 276

Bibliography 303

Contributors 351

Index 355

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4796-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4781-1
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