Nature in the Global South

Environmental Projects in South and Southeast Asia

Nature in the Global South

Book Pages: 440 Illustrations: 3 tables, 4 figures Published: August 2003

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

A nuanced look at how nature has been culturally constructed in South and Southeast Asia, Nature in the Global South is a major contribution to understandings of the politics and ideologies of environmentalism and development in a postcolonial epoch. Among the many significant paradigms for understanding both the preservation and use of nature in these regions are biological classification, state forest management, tropical ecology, imperial water control, public health, and community-based conservation. Focusing on these and other ways that nature has been shaped and defined, this pathbreaking collection of essays describes projects of exploitation, administration, science, and community protest.

With contributors based in anthropology, ecology, sociology, history, and environmental and policy studies, Nature in the Global South features some of the most innovative and influential work being done in the social studies of nature. While some of the essays look at how social and natural landscapes are created, maintained, and transformed by scientists, officials, monks, and farmers, others analyze specific campaigns to eradicate smallpox and save forests, waterways, and animal habitats. In case studies centered in the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, and South and Southeast Asia as a whole, contributors examine how the tropics, the jungle, tribes, and peasants are understood and transformed; how shifts in colonial ideas about the landscape led to extremely deleterious changes in rural well-being; and how uneasy environmental compromises are forged in the present among rural, urban, and global allies.

Warwick Anderson
Amita Baviskar
Peter Brosius
Susan Darlington
Michael R. Dove
Ann Grodzins Gold
Paul Greenough
Roger Jeffery
Nancy Peluso
K. Sivaramakrishnan
Nandini Sundar
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
Charles Zerner


“[A]n essential read for anyone wanting to better understand the impact both of ‘Foreign activists,’ the dilemmas facing indigenous hill tribes, and more importantly of aid donor countries in this vital area of our planet.” — Tom J. Roberts , Asian Affairs

“[M]eticulously and thoroughly researched. . . . [C]ontribute[s] significantly to the understanding of environmental politics and history in the Asian continent.” — Liew Kai Khiun , Modern Asian Studies

“As a whole, the book is well written and researched. Its strength is that it not only contains a large body of interesting research on environmental issues but that it extends beyond the research to successfully map out the history, context, problems, and future implications that surround contemporary natural resources issues in these regions. Consequently, the book may serve as a useful commentary in a variety of discourses – from anthropology to economics, to sociology, political science, and biology.” — Allen Stoddard, Agriculture and Human Values

“Looking at environmental projects and mobilizations, Nature in the Global South provides the reader with an in-depth, multifaceted analysis of environmental projects, the scope of which is broader than earlier studies, conducted in a similar vein. The strength of the research lies in providing potential welfare improvements in South and Southeast Asia.” — Deepti Sastry , Contemporary South Asia

“The book offers insightful investigations into regional scholarship on environmental discourses and will be useful for activists and academics.” — Abdullah Al Faruque , South Asia Research

“This set of extraordinary case studies by authors from several countries and disciplines explores historically the politics of nature in particular local contexts through environmental projects, movements, and associated discourses. . . . The editors provide an unusually imaginative and provocative introduction that nicely integrates the main concerns of the anthology. . . .
[R]efreshing and insightful. . . . This set of high-quality case studies contributes a relatively new perspective on human-environment interactions in the regions covered. . . . Published at the turn from the 20th century into the 21st, this book provides a convenient benchmark for a diagnosis of
the political ecology of the past and a prognosis for its future in tropical Asia.” — Leslie Sponsel , Anthropological Quarterly

"[A] pathbreaking work because of its original and detailed explorations of environmental discourses in South and Southeast Asia. Scholars and advanced students both of the region and of modern environmentalism would do well to consult it. Because of the dearth of English language materials concerned at such a complex level with local Asian debates on environmental issues, libraries with major collections in South Asian and Southeast Asian studies, particularly India and Indonesia, should acquire this volume. It is also recommended for interested general readers, since the editors have ensured that they can engage with this volume’s intriguing environmental topics without confronting heavy, overly academic language." — Laura M. Calkins , Electronic Green Journal

"[A]t heart, the authors have a good political line: that partisan scholarship to raise the interests of tribals, peasants and workers can go hand-in-hand with political activism. Together both can challenge the conclusion of development economics and 'global ecologism.' . . . [A] good index and a splendid bibliography." — Bruce McFarlane, Journal of Contemporary Asia

"[T]his collection of essays decidedly advances our understanding of how the tropics and its inhabitants have been conceptualized and transformed by colonial and postcolonial regimes, sometimes for the worse, and how uneasy alliances are being formed in the present between Northern and Southern, rural and urban, local and global allies and enemies." — Joe Peters , Peace & Change

"[T]his volume provides a number of fresh insights into the study of nature in southern environments." — David Biggs , Environmental History

"This book provides interesting accounts of the interactions between people and natural resources in South and Southeast Asia. It will be useful to anthropologists and sociologists. . . . I would recommend it as a starting point for economists embarking on interdisciplinary research in this area." — Budy Resosudarmo, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies

"This is a stunning book. . . .[T]he breadth and depth of historical and ethnographic material brought together in one collection to show how the idea of nature governs relations not only between people and environment, but also the wider field of social and political relations, is quite unique. . . . [T]his is a book that environmental activists and the non-governmental organization community need to read to move forward from some of the impasses and increasingly tired critiques and counter-critiques that shape debate on environment and development." — Philip Hirsch , Environmental Conservation

“Bringing together insights from cultural studies, critical anthropology, and environmental history, this collection provides a robust rethinking of regionalism in South and Southeast Asia. Nature in the Global South makes crucial contributions to the emerging interdisciplinary field of the cultural politics of environmental struggles, assembling an impressive array of acclaimed scholars.” — Donald S. Moore, coeditor of Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Paul Greenough is Professor in the Departments of History and Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Famine of 19431944 and the editor of “Global Immunization and Culture: Compliance and Resistance in Large-Scale Public Health Campaigns,” a special issue of Social Science and Medicine.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place and coeditor of Uncertain Terms: Negotiating Gender in American Culture.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Introduction / Paul Greenough and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing 1

Part I Scales, Logics, and Agents

Tropical Knowledges

The Natures of Culture: Environment and Race in the Colonial Tropics / Warwick Anderson 29

Dividing Lines: Nature, Culture, and Commerce in Indonesia's Aru Islands, 1856-1997 / Charles Zerner 47

A Move from Minor to Major: Competing Discourses of Nontimber Forest Products in India / Roger Jeffery and Nandini Sundar, with Abha Mishra, Neeraj Peter, and Pradeep J. Tharakan 79

Rural Landscaping

Forest Discourses in South and Southeast Asia: A Comparison with Global Discourses / Michael R. Dove 103

Agrarian Allegory and Global Futures / Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing 124

Foreign Trees: Lives and Landscapes in Rajasthan / Ann Grodzins Gold 170

Part II Toward Livable Environments: Compromises and Campaigns

States of Nature / States in Nature

Pathogens, Pugmarks, and Political "Emergency": The 1970s South Asian Debate on Nature / Paul Greenough 201

Territorializing Local Struggles for Resource Control; A Look at Environmnetal Discourses and Politics in Indonesia / Nancy Lee Peluso 231

Scientific Forestry and Geneaologies of Development in Bengal / K. Sivaramakrishnan 253

Uneasy Allies

Tribal Politics and Discourses of Indian Environmentalism / Amita Baviskar 289

Voices for the Borneo Rain Forest: Writing the History of an Environmental Campaign / J. Peter Brosius 319

Practical Spirituality and Community Forests: Monks, Ritual, and Radical Conservatism in Thailand / Susan M. Darlington 347

Bibliography 367

Contributors 411

Index 413
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3149-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3150-6
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