Forests Are Gold examines the management of Vietnam's forests during the twentieth century – from French colonial rule to the recent transition to market-oriented socialism – as the country united, prospered, and engaged in both ambitious conservation projects and rapid land development. For Ho Chi Minh and other political leaders, forests were always about more than trees: they were about the development and administration of people and landscapes. Forest policy has rarely been about ecology or conservation for nature's sake, but instead is about managing citizens and society, a process Pamela McElwee terms "environmental rule". Combining archival data with longitudinal field research to present a nuanced perspective on ecological change in Vietnam, Forests Are Gold tells us not just about environmental management and nature conservation but also about the birth of Vietnam itself. This detailed and provocative study of forest management in Vietnam promises to become a landmark work for political ecology and Southeast Asian studies.
"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
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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.