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Forests, farmers and the state: environmentalism and resistance in northeastern Thailand
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology.
1997 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Isan farmers in Ubonratchatani province of Northeast Thailand employ Buddhist as well as modernist environmental arguments to resist the spread of commercial eucalyptus plantations carried out by the state. Villagers affected by the consequences of commercial forestry have made a metaphorical link between eucalyptus, destructive exploitation and coercive power. The central argument of the present study is that local environmentalism is a reaction against a government policy which in itself is formulated in conservationist terms.

The focus is on the conflict between Thai foresters and Nong Wai Ngam farmers, and how the forest authorities justify their promotion of eucalyptus in conservationist terms, arguing that the species is useful for rehabilitating degraded tropical monsoon forest, while the local villagers protest by inverting the foresters' terms, combining them both with their own farming wisdom and with 'scientific' arguments. The study describes how the forestry debate has been revitalised by inserting political, cultural and religious issues into the eucalyptus question, turning it into an idiom of general resistance.

The thesis discusses the forms of village resistance, at the levels of linguistic practice as well as of concrete action ranging from small-scale sabotage to violence.

Fieldwork was carried out in 1989-91 and 1993, mainly by participant observation. Intensive interviews, situational analysis and life-history approaches were combined to reconstruct the large-scale processes whereby ideas are transmitted to the Nong Wai Ngam people as well as to give a picture of the environment within which these farmers are acting.

The author argues that the practice of resistance engenders changes in the ways parties to the conflict behave and think. Trying to defend what they perceive as central to their culture people make ideational and practical innovations. In the process of the struggle these adaptations develop beyond the original concerns and transform the culture itself.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 1997. , 289 p.
Stockholm studies in social anthropology, ISSN 0347-0830 ; 41
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Social Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-37589ISBN: 91-7153-692-2OAI: diva2:303903
Public defence
1998-02-26, hörsal 10, hus D, Södra huset, Frescati, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2010-03-16 Created: 2010-03-16 Last updated: 2013-12-19Bibliographically approved

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