Ecological Knowledge and the Making of Plantation Concession Territories in Southern Laos

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    This paper examines how new forms of ecological knowledge are produced and mobilised through a sustainability-oriented, commercial tree plantation project in Lao PDR. As Gavin Bridge has noted, the establishment of primary resource sector projects are often not simply based upon a discursive emptying and erasure of local social and environmental histories. More nuanced forms of selective re-encoding, and performance can occur, incorporating what Maureen Sioh has called a "reconfiguration and imaginative recuperation of the physical landscape." In this case study, a commercial forestry company in Laos pays close attention to community environmental livelihood practices and local poverty indicators, and to the material remainders of the Second Indochina War embedded in the landscape. I argue that the production and circulation of new ecological knowledge through this project, and the interventions of new knowledge-actors in this area of the former Ho Chi Minh Trail zone of southern Laos, establishes a moral theatre of environmental sustainability and national development. The inscription and dissemination of new ecological and local knowledges can be understood as related to particular development-expert subjectivities in Laos. It is also connected to a competitive strategy employed by this company to gain access to concession land, within the broader context of non-scripted regulation and contested governance in Laos's plantation sector.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)352-363
    JournalConservation and Society
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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