SEAP Gatty Lecture Fall 2016
Date: Thursday, November 10, 2016
Time and Place: 12PM at the 102 Mann Library, Cornell University
Lecture is free and open to the public.
“Environmental Rule in Vietnam: Governmentality, Networks, and Nature in the 20th Century”
Ho Chi Minh famously remarked that “Forests are gold; if we know to protect and develop them well, they will be very precious.” His message was aimed at demonstrating that environmental policies should be about both the development and administration of both human populations and natural landscapes. In a recently published book titled Forests Are Gold: Trees, People and Environmental Rule in Vietnam (Seattle: University of Washington Press), McElwee examines interventions in forest landscapes in Vietnam that began during the French colonial era, moving through high socialism, collectivization, and war, and now continuing in an age of market-oriented economics. Throughout these different and turbulent periods, one thing has remained constant: the control and management of trees and forests in Vietnam has not been primarily about environmental protection, but rather about other social goals, such as population resettlement, economic development, and transformation of social and cultural groups. McElwee terms this process “environmental rule”, and argues that environmental rule occurs when states, organizations, or individuals use environmental or ecological reasons as justification for what is really a concern with social planning. While the intervention said is to “improve” or “protect” the environment itself, in reality, underlying improvements to people or society are envisioned. These forms of environmental rule have left a legacy of both social unease and environmental degradation, and the talk will identify why and how such policies of rule continue to be applied, both within and outside Vietnam. Untangling and understanding these practices and networks of rule illuminates not just thorny issues of environmental change, but also the birth of modern Vietnam itself.