Contesting the resource: The politics of forest management in colonial Burma.

Main author: Bryant, Raymond L.
Format: Theses           
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Summary: This thesis examines the politics of forest management in colonial Burma. Chapter 1 establishes the theoretical and analytical concerns of the study. Chapter 2 describes the laissez-faire practices in early colonial Tenasserim which resulted in the depletion of that territory's teak forests. Chapter 3 examines how the Forest Department sought to regulate shifting cultivators, timber traders and peasants between 1856 and 1881. Chapter 4 points out that the growth of a professional forest service meant not only that the relationship between forest and civil officials had to be clarified, but also that state and societal forest rights needed differentiation. Chapters 5 and 6 trace the efforts of the Forest Department to rationalize forest use in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the era of expansion (1881-1902), which is the subject of Chapter 5, forest management was extended to new territories and activities, but was above all reflected in the growth of reserved forests. Chapter 6 relates that during the era of consolidation (1902-23) these reserves were the focus of departmental activity. But, if the concentration of teak extraction in the hands of the European firms eased forest management in one respect, broad societal and ecological changes intensified the conflict between the Forest Department and the peasantry. After the introduction of partial self-rule in 1923, that conflict became more pronounced as forest management was politicized. Chapter 7 assesses the implications of this change for forest politics up to the Japanese invasion (1942). Chapter 8 situates the politics of forest management in colonial Burma in a wider context. The Burmese experience is summarized and then compared with that of Dutch-ruled Java, British India and autonomous Siam in order to clarify the nature of Asian forest politics in colonial times.