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In this innovative political and historical study, Arun Agrawal illuminates changing environmental processes, institutions, and identities through an examination of forest protection by villagers in the northern Indian state of Kumaon. In the early 1920s, Kumaoni villagers set hundreds of fires protesting the colonial state's environmental regulations. By the 1990s, residents of Kumaon had begun to carefully conserve their forest land and resources. Agrawal analyzes and explains this striking transformation. In so doing, he demonstrates how scholarship on common property, political ecology, and feminist environmentalism can be combined - in an approach he calls "environmentality" - to better understand Kumaon's changes in environmental government.Such an understanding is relevant to other parts of the world, where local populations in more than fifty countries are engaged in similar efforts to protect environmental resources. Agrawal brings environment and development studies, new institutional economics, and Foucauldian theories of power and subjectivity to bear on his ethnographical and archival research. He visited nearly forty villages in Kumaon, where he examined local records, assessed the state of village forests, and interviewed hundreds of Kumaonis.He describes how, in response to the fierce protests against centralized rule, the colonial state decentralized its regulation of the forest. This decentralization changed relations between states and localities, between community decision-makers and common residents, and between individuals and the environment. In exploring these changes and their significance, Agrawal shows how awareness of environmental politics is enriched by attention to the connections between power, knowledge, institutions, and subjectivities.
Arun Agrawal achieves, in Environmentality, something of a breakthrough to new analytical territory where the binaries of state and society, structure and agency, public and private are transcended. He parlays the humble subject of community-based forestry and Foucault's concept of 'governmentality' into the makings of an original and subtle analysis of modernity and nature.--James C. Scott, Yale University "Arun Agrawal has written an amazing book that draws on a very-long-term case study to make general lessons. He analyzes the development of the mentality of citizens and officials related to the environment in a particular setting undergoing major shifts from centralization to a form of decentralization. All of us can take some important lessons from this book about how people's mentalities change when they have power and knowledge to cope with a problem. That shift in knowledge and power took time and effort, but is one of the rare success stories of recent history."--Elinor Ostrom, coeditor of Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Human-Environment Interactions in Forest Ecosystems "Dealing with challenging theoretical concepts, yet building from a wealth of rich empirical data, Environmentality has much to offer ... "--ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING A, 2006 "Throughout the chapters, the analyses are of high quality. The authors know their cases and present them well. At the same time, they connect to the broader issues the volume intends to raise and to the rising literature on 'materiality...'"--Peter Wagner, American Journal of Sociology "This is an important book that readers of Technology and Culture should find both challenging and rewarding..." --Marcia-Anne Dobres, Technology and Culture "For museum scholars, careful consideration of materiality--and of the ideologies of the material world conveyed by museum practice--is imperative. This volume will be an important resource for such a project." --Jessica Cattelino, Museum Anthropology "A lively volume... This book makes the reader engage with a range of old and new arguments on materiality and pushes their boundaries in a way that makes it important reading for a broad anthropological public."-- Francesca Merlan, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute