In Search of the Rain Forest

In Search of the Rain Forest

New Ecologies for the Twenty-First Century

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Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 20 b&w photos, 8 maps Published: March 2004

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Politics

The essays collected here offer important new reflections on the multiple images of and rhetoric surrounding the rain forest. The slogan “Save the Rain Forest!”—emblazoned on glossy posters of tall trees wreathed in vines and studded with monkeys and parrots—promotes the popular image of a marvelously wild and vulnerable rain forest. Although representations like these have fueled laudable rescue efforts, in many ways they have done more harm than good, as these essays show. Such icons tend to conceal both the biological variety of rain forests and the diversity of their human inhabitants. They also frequently obscure the specific local and global interactions that are as much a part of today’s rain forests as are the array of plants and animals. In attending to these complexities, this volume focuses on specific portrayals of rain forests and the consequences of these characterizations for both forest inhabitants and outsiders.

From diverse disciplines—history, archaeology, sociology, literature, law, and cultural anthropology—the contributors provide case studies from Latin America, Asia, and Africa. They point the way toward a search for a rain forest that is both a natural entity and a social history, an inhabited place and a shifting set of ideas. The essayists demonstrate how the single image of a wild and yet fragile forest became fixed in the popular mind in the late twentieth century, thereby influencing the policies of corporations, environmental groups, and governments. Such simplistic conceptions, In Search of the Rain Forest shows, might lead companies to tout their “green” technologies even as they try to downplay the dissenting voices of native populations. Or they might cause a government to create a tiger reserve that displaces peaceful peasants while opening the doors to poachers and bandits. By encouraging a nuanced understanding of distinctive, constantly evolving forests with different social and natural histories, this volume provides an important impetus for protection efforts that take into account the rain forest in all of its complexity.

Contributors. Scott Fedick, Alex Greene, Paul Greenough, Nancy Peluso, Suzana Sawyer, Candace Slater, Charles Zerner


“This book provides valuable insight into the dynamics of competing social constructions of nature. . . . [A]n engaging, thought-provoking volume rich in ideas grounded in real-world cases, and may alter to some degree the way many of us see the rainforest ourselves.” — Derek Smith , Cultural Geographies

"At this stage, anyone concerned with forest management would do well to read this book-it is an excellent demonstration of the value of a consciously-managed process of interdisciplinary dialogue." — Elery Hamilton-Smith , Electronic Green Journal

"This interdisciplinary cultural critique of the rain forest demonstrates how powerful simplifying rhetoric can be, influencing policy makers to develop equally simplified prescriptions for conservation that ignore the complex social and natural histories of the landscape. By calling these simplifications into question, this volume challenges our conservation policies and argues for a different model of resource protection based on landscape wide accommodation of resident peoples and their livelihoods." — Amity A. Doolittle , American Anthropologist

In Search of the Rain Forest dissects the multiple meanings and the iconography of tropical nature in a very interesting way. It moves ‘rain forest studies’ into the realm of cultural critique in a manner that serves important scholarly as well as consciousness-raising ends.” — Susanna B. Hecht, coauthor of The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers, and Defenders of the Amazon

“This is an immensely thought-provoking and entertaining book. It makes a compelling case for an approach to the rain forest that eschews environmental fundamentalism in favor of a rich and multilayered understanding of the social complexities of rain forest practice and representation.” — Raymond L. Bryant, author of The Political Ecology of Forestry in Burma, 1824–1994


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Candace Slater is Marian E. Koshland Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. Among her books are Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon and Dance of the Dolphin: Transformation and Disenchantment in the Amazonian Imagination.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series vii

Acknowledgments ix

Mapping Out The Quest

In Search of the Rain Forest / Candace Slater 3

Rain Forest Icons

Fire in El Dorado, or Images of Tropical Nature and Their Practical Effects / Candace Slater 41

Subterranean Techniques: Corporate Environmentalism, Oil Operations, and Social Injustice in the Ecuadorian Rain Forest / Suzana Sawyer 69

The Voice of Ix Chel: Fashioning Maya Tradition in the Belizean Rain Forest / Alex Greene 101

Rain Forest and Jungle

In Search of the Maya Forest / Scott Fedick 133

Spectacles of Wildness

Bio-Ironies of the Fractured Forest: India's Tiger Reserves / Paul Greenough 167

Weapons of the Wild: Strategic Uses of Violence and Wildness in the Rain Forests of Indonesian Borneo / Nancy Lee Peluso 204

The Viral Forest in Motion: Ebola, African Forests, and Emerging Cartographies of Environmental Danger / Charles Zerner 246

Afterword: The Ongoing Search 285

Contributors 305

Index 309
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3218-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3205-3
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