Forests Are Gold

Trees, People, and Environmental Rule in Vietnam

Pamela D. McElwee

  • Published: April 2016
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia; Anthropology; Environmental Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 312 pp., 12 illus., 15 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Culture, Place, and Nature
  • Contents

Forests Are Gold examines the management of Vietnam's forests in the tumultuous twentieth century-from French colonialism to the recent transition to market-oriented economics-as the country united, prospered, and transformed people and landscapes. Forest policy has rarely been about ecology or conservation for nature's sake, but about managing citizens and society, a process Pamela McElwee terms "environmental rule." Untangling and understanding these practices and networks of rule illuminates not just thorny issues of environmental change, but also the birth of Vietnam itself.
Pamela D. McElwee is associate professor of human ecology at Rutgers University. She is the coeditor of Gender and Sustainability: Lessons from Asia and Latin America.

"This meticulously documented and groundbreaking study reveals the ways in which the classification of forests is tied in to regimes of power, which in turn frames the political and economic meaning of what we so often assume are righteous ecological and environmental improvement projects."
-Erik Harms, author of Saigon's Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City

"Very interesting and thought provoking, Forests Are Gold presents fascinating details about forest politics in Vietnam. This book will be a source of reference on Vietnam for some years."
-Tim Forsyth, coauthor of Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand

"Mirroring what the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz famously said about war, McElwee shows us that 'environmental rule' is politics by other means. Deeply informed by archival knowledge, intensive fieldwork, a knowledge of elite discourse, and a gift for theory, McElwee is, by turns, a consummate historian, botanist, sociologist, economist, and anthropologist. Inspiring, path-breaking, and sophisticated, Forests Are Gold will make big waves in Vietnam and in political ecology more generally"
-James C. Scott, Yale University

"Forests Are Gold takes us on a historical trek through different eras of 'environmental rule' influencing Vietnam's little-known forest histories. McElwee deftly demonstrates the articulations of local and transnational forest imaginaries, socio-natural histories, and entanglements of culture, nature, and power."
-Nancy Lee Peluso, author of Rich Forests, Poor People