I am pleased to be a discussant at the Technopolitics and Empire symposium, which will be held at UC Berkeley on November 2nd (9:30am-4:30pm) in 470 Stephens Hall. The day-long workshop will offer graduate students and faculty an opportunity to share current research and to envision new directions in science and (neo-)empire studies. This event is open to the academic community at UC Berkeley and to the general public; you can RSVP to attend here. The full program can be found here.
I will be a discussant on the panel entitled "Locations and Scale," which will feature talks by Gabrielle Hecht of Stanford University and Diana K. Davis of UC Davis:
2:30 to 4:15 pm Panel III: Locations and Scale
Moderator: Camilla Hawthorne, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
“Residual Governance: Mining Afterlives and Molecular Colonialism, seen from an African Anthropocene”
Gabrielle Hecht, Department of History, Stanford University
Over the last three centuries, humans have turned the earth inside out at an unprecedented pace. The topographical inversions performed by subterranean extraction have transformed geological temporalities and molecular alliances. Summoning “the Anthropocene” evokes the vast scope of these transformations, and invokes the need for global governance to keep carbon compounds from suffocating our species. But what about the many other residues of extraction? Grounding the Anthropocene in place confronts the urgency of governing these remainders. This talk discusses the technopolitics of residual governance in South Africa, exploring the effects of molecular colonialism on regional political futures.
“Ecologies of the Colonial Present: Pathological Forestry from the ‘Taux de Boisement‘ to Civilized Plantations”
Diana K. Davis, Departments of History and Geography, University of California, Davis
Tree planting has long been an obsession of postcolonial environmental governance. Never innocent of its imperial history, the practice persists in global regimes of forestry today. For nearly three centuries, afforestation has been viewed as a panacea for a variety of ills including civilizational decline, diminished precipitation, warming temperatures, soil erosion and decreasing biodiversity. As a result, tree plantations, despite their many demonstrated failings, have flourished as an art of environmental governance.
This paper traces the origins and importance of the taux de boisement in such plantation efforts, typically understood as a percentage of appropriately wooded land within a territory. Likely first developed in France by the early 19th century, this notion was promulgated in colonial territories assumed to be massively deforested. Targets of 30-33% forest cover, the minimum assumed for European civilization, were built into French forest training and policy and exported globally. Indeed, we demonstrate here that these French colonial policies and influences were as significant in many regions as those of better-documented German forestry traditions, especially in British India.We further attend to the implications of these influences, and the degree to which the attendant concept of a taux de boisement traveled to colonial forestry in India, further shaping forest policies of the post-independence era. We provide the example of the “National Mission for a Green India” (NMGI), an effort by the Government of India to increase forest/tree cover by 5 million hectares and improve quality of forest/tree cover on another 5 million hectares forest/non-forest lands. Ostensibly aimed at improving forest-based livelihoods, the initiative has all the qualities of past forestry efforts in India, which have historically performed a reverse role: to disinherit forest-rooted populations. French colonial forestry, we therefore conclude, continues to haunt contemporary policy, contributing pathological ecologies with pernicious effects on local people.