For Reasons of Nature
Ethnic Discrimination and Conservation in Thailand

by Larry Lohmann

first published 9 April 2000

Summary

The intersections between international nature conservation and ethnic politics are of serious and growing concern to many social movements in Southeast Asia. They relate to the crucial and contested topics of ecology, colonialism, nationalism and the sociology of knowledge -- and cry out for further public discussion in both international and regional forums.

This paper, presented at a working conference, "Reassessing Resources: Teaching, Writing and Civic Action", organised by the Cornell University Southeast Asia Program in Ithaca, New York, offers evidence that international environmentalist practices interact with local and national conditions to advance the structural work of ethnic discrimination and racism in Southeast Asia. The racist outcomes of these practices do not flow exclusively from unprofessionalism, faulty science, irrationality, immorality or incorrect beliefs -- and anti-racist strategy has to accommodate this insight.

Contents

 

Introduction

There are several good reasons, I think, for considering the intersections between international nature conservation and ethnic politics to be a fitting topic for the "Civic Action" section of our conference. For one thing, the subject is of serious and growing concern to many social movements in Southeast Asia. Bearing on crucial and contested topics of ecology, colonialism, nationalism, and the sociology of knowledge, it also has the virtue of forcing us outsiders aspiring to study Southeast Asia to turn our gaze continually outwards, and on ourselves, as well as on the region. Finally, the topic is one which cries out for further public discussion in both international and regional forums. As Yang Lien-sheng has wisely remarked, racism has to be spelled out in order to be dispelled.1 If raising the issue among some of our environmentalist colleagues constitutes a breach of accepted professional practice, and I'll suggest that it often does, then this is a problem we, as fellow members of middle-class intelligentsia, have a special responsibility to confront.

In this paper I try to establish two main points. First, drawing on a case study from Thailand, with some side glances at examples elsewhere in the region, I offer evidence that international environmentalist practices of imagining and mapping humans and nature into separate, bounded, mutually exclusive realms are interacting with local and national conditions to advance the structural work of ethnic discrimination and racism in Southeast Asia. Second, I argue that the racist outcomes of these practices do not flow exclusively from unprofessionalism, faulty science, irrationality, immorality, or incorrect beliefs, and that anti-racist strategy must accommodate this insight. I conclude with some reflections on ways forward which involve challenging civic group norms and exploring genres of contestation outside science proper.

Ethnic Mapping and Racism

Identifying any particular group of concepts with bounded, non-overlapping territories -- whether imaginary or physical -- has curious consequences. One is that it makes the concepts in question mutually exclusive. Suppose you divide off an imaginary two-dimensional map of the universe into "mind" and "body". Any given point on the map must then be either mind or body but can never be both. Suppose you identify nations with territories and draw borders between them. Then no one standing in one nation can also be in another. Suppose you organize ethnic groups in the same way. Then on your scheme Croat, Serb and Muslim neighbors (say) will have to split up and move to "their" respective territories.2 Through the elimination of the unmappable, heterogeneity becomes unimaginable. Of course, borders can change. But if the border of one bounded territory bulges outward, that of the adjacent one must retract inward.

Map metaphors and structural racism are connected in complex ways. What Kenan Malik calls the "transposition of racial arguments into the sphere of culture"3 has been accompanied by the figurative drawing of maps dividing humanity into discrete ethnic groups with characteristics like individualism, laziness, sexual license, respect for hierarchy, aggressiveness, violence and proneness to fantasy. Social problems ranging from crime, inefficiency and social confusion to environmental decay, loss of identity, cultural homogenization and even war atrocities in countries such as Rwanda and Ireland are then said to result when boundaries between groups are breached through immigration, intermarriage, political upheaval, economic growth, changes in land policy, or indiscipline. As tales of ethnic contamination and containment eclipse other stories about history, power and social relations, map imagery can function to rationalize inequality and help block negotiation and the attempt to live with difference. The mapping of stereotyped set of traits into each ethnic "space" functions to short-circuit efforts at collective thinking about mutual adjustment, instead inviting a simplified, managerial, scapegoating approach to groups whose behaviour is regarded as fixed and unself-modifying.

Above all, mapping different ethnic groups into discrete fields reflects and encourages the binary view that ethnic groups different from one's own must be either assimilated (often meaning "brought up to one's level") or excluded (i.e., segregated, resettled, repatriated, dispossessed, repressed, or excluded from status, privilege, livelihood or life). For example, as Thongchai Winichakul and David Streckfuss have argued, colonial-era projects of mapping Siam were closely associated with efforts to "homogenize the kingdom racially" -- for example, to "Thai-ize" Lao, or absorb them imaginatively into the "Thai race"; "then, with a racialist rationale in hand, governmental policies were fashioned to make the categories real".4 At the same time, there has been a contradictory push -- reinforced by the need of Bangkok elites to maintain an alternative to a symbolic order in which they are looked down upon by foreign metropolitans -- to keep the Lao figuratively "over the border" as inferior counterpart.

Mountain-dwelling ethnic minorities have also often been treated as peoples awaiting assimilation. Progressive lowland groups often assume unreflectively, for example, that highland minorities, as incomplete or inferior instantiations of "Thainess", aspire or should aspire to lowland norms and hierarchies. Chulalongkorn University's hilltribe club attempted to teach "basic manners" including "the art of wai" to uplanders for 25 years.5 Karen farmers have been portrayed as picking up superior traditional irrigation methods from lowland Thai.6 A prominent social critic once expressed urbane amusement at a Karen farmer he had met who had let slip that he was both Christian and Buddhist depending on the circumstances. The poor slob, the implication was, did not yet know that he had to be one or the other but not both.7 Yet with mountain-dwelling minorities, the second knot of the racist double bind, exclusion, tends to be predominant. On the whole, the rise of contemporary racist practices has meant that mountain dwellers have moved from being trade partners who did not necessarily need to be either excluded or assimilated, or (to elites) mere plaek palaat ("strange") people of little interest to civilization, toward being genuine menaces who must intermittently be set apart from the nation in its several senses, literally or metaphorically. Legally, they are set apart by the difficulties many have had in acquiring citizenship papers. Geographically, they have sometimes been driven over the country's borders,8 and, as will be seen below, are increasingly threatened with being driven over the borders of the country's national protected areas. Culturally, they are often seen as incorrigibly dirty, primitive, lazy, brutal, and, now, environmentally irresponsible. Linguistically, they are among those who phuut mai chat ("do not speak Thai clearly"); conversely, if they do speak fluent (central) Thai, then they cannot be "hilltribes". On top of that, they practice fii sek ("free sex"), an omnibus category of immorality which lumps together promiscuity, prostitution, indifference to the proper place of women in the hierarchy, and the perceived licence accorded to young courting couples among some highland groups: as an official at the government's Hilltribe Culture and Development Center recently declared, Akha "culture" makes its women "natural whores".9

As Hjorleifur R. Jonsson concludes,

"Thai nationalism posits Thailand for Thai people and defines uplanders as migrants from other nation-states such as China, Laos or Burma. Defining uplanders as foreigners is as real as the definition of Ban Chiang pottery as Thai: both are predicated on a clearly demarcated land area within which things either are Thai and to be kept or foreign and to be dismissed."10

Thongchai notes wittily that Thailand's Border Patrol Police -- whose activities have ranged from firing on students in Bangkok in 1976 to setting up counterinsurgency operations in Thai villages in the 1980s to shaving Karen villagers' heads in Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuary and forcing their children to wear school uniforms in 1997 -- see the term "border" as signifying the "demarcation of otherness from Thainess as much as a geographical boundary".11

Of course, such restless border-drawing, whether undertaken in Southeast Asia or anywhere else, is continually complicated by contrary views and adaptations among those on whom the maps are being urged. This resistance may invoke different maps, join in the effort to preserve them, or abjure maps entirely. Some ethnic groups may see themselves as centered rather than bounded, or as organized around economic relationships rather than spatial localities. In Thailand, for instance, the work of linguist William Smalley and a number of anthropologists suggests that lowland and state demands that languages and ethnic categories be arranged in a hierarchy privileging Central Thai and lowland urban cultural norms continue to be partially accommodated within a system in which multiple, overlapping, unbordered ethnic identities are possible, and in which reducing "divisiveness of language difference" is not felt to entail extinguishing non-Tai languages.12 Others may resist imposed boundaries by erasing and redrawing them (Stuart Hall speaks of how "black" in the UK came to include people of Indian, not just Caribbean or African descent) or by drawing new ones. Groups excluded from a map may rise up. Others will take a dim view of the implication that ethnic borders justify inequalities, or that border violations are what explain social problems. In sum, politically-interested ethnic map-imaginers can hardly expect to have it all their own way -- which is one reason why the work of racial oppression is never done.

Human/Nature Mapping

Map imagery is also pervasive in environmental thinking. In particular, and at the most general level, the idea of a world divided between humans and a non-human or human-free "nature" has long haunted conservationism. So-called "pristine" areas, preservationism's most precious commodities, are ones which have supposedly been "untouched" or "relatively unmodified" by humans.13 This language of purity and pollution emphasizes the necessity of mutual exclusion, of keeping borders well-fortified. The human/nature map image appears even in the way the word "environment" itself is used: people occupy one mental realm, "environment", as a matrix for industrial activity, another. Human livelihood, in standard economics, consists of ferrying scarce productive resources or raw materials over an imaginary border to the human realm, where they are "cooked" -- or, alternatively, of extending an imaginary frontier over those resources, whether animal, vegetable, mineral, intellectual, or genetic. Protecting these resources, correspondingly, consists merely in preventing them from being shipped over that border.

The discourse on "overpopulation" reproduces this human/nature boundary by opposing "population" to "carrying capacity". Just as a "pristine" protected area cannot stand the slightest touch of human activity without becoming at least slightly degraded, so available carrying capacity cannot bear the slightest touch of "population" without shrinking. "If you took our planet and just put one human being on it," one of Britain's best-known Greenpeace activists told a television interviewer in 1997,

"that human being would be consuming resources which otherwise would be available for nature -- for wildlife, for wild animals, plants, whatever. Two human beings consume twice as much, and a million consume a million times as much... Everything we do impacts on nature and to my mind what we need to concentrate on is limiting that impact."14

At bottom, such imagery is as deeply political as that of the ethnic map. Like figurative or literal ethnic mapping, it's also often the target of vigorous sarcasms -- particularly on the part of groups living on the land who are informed that their residence is incompatible with "nature". Such groups often point out that the concept of a protected area "unmodified by human activity" is incoherent, given the presence or influence, in every such area they know, of some combination of bureaucrats, foresters, conservationists, researchers, ecotourists, plantation contractors, dam-builders, road-construction firms, miners, loggers, mafiosi, fence-builders, firefighters, rangers, anti-poaching forces, birdwatchers, landgrabbers, documentary-makers and World Bank consultants. Their point is that the international conservationist "human/nature" boundary is in fact a human/human boundary which tends to reinforce or conceal class, ethnic, anti-agriculture, anti-commons or other discrimination in the allocation and permitted uses of land. The "population"/carrying capacity variant, on their view, is also discriminatory, not only because "population" usually means ethnic groups with little political or economic power, but also because it excludes the experience of groups who constitute and modify "carrying capacity" in creative ways difficult to calculate in advance. To groups aware of the dependence of forests on human-set fires, of soil fertility on human stewardship, and so on, the attitude that "we" need to concentrate on "reducing the impact of humans on nature" often seems not only alien but also counterproductive. This attitude, insofar as it leads to classifying forest fallows, say, or rangeland occupied by both domesticated and non-domesticated ruminants as "not natural", also makes it more difficult to build farmer-pastoralist-environmentalist alliances.

I harbor the strong suspicion that it's not only an intellectual obligation but also a civic duty for us intellectuals and middle-class activists to join in such questioning by taking the familiar ethnic and human/nature map images and trying to make them strange again.15 My Thai activist colleague Srisuwan Kuankachorn expressed a still stronger view last autumn at a conference at Yale. "We need to create a battlefield in the US," Srisuwan said, addressing in particular the practices of strict nature preservationism:

"I think it is the responsibility of progressive academics here to humiliate, to attack the knowledge which originated here and has played such a role in shaping the perspectives and concepts which have prevailed in our countries."16

"Nature" as Social Category

"Partition is a form of idealism which fails to heed the realism of heterogeneity and the impossibility of division -- except through the advocacy and pursuit of ethnic cleansing."

David Campbell

One way to begin seeking a vantage point from which the human/nature map image can be made strange again is to ask to what extent European ideas of "nature" have been shaped by the idea of a landscape for aesthetic contemplation by a certain class. In landscape paintings -- often commissioned to help legitimate the property and authority of the powerful -- humans who lived on and worked the land, if they were visible at all, tended to become shepherds in an idyll, cheerful peasants, picturesque ragamuffins or indistinct laborers merging duskily into the background.17 Appreciation of the sort of nature which was portrayed in these paintings was an identifier showing who you were in society. In the 18th and 19th centuries, to be a card-carrying member of the European middle classes you had to show some longing or appreciation for the sublime or Edenic. Shame on Wordsworth's "wild outcasts of society", the torpid gypsies, who, condemned by "their birth/And breeding", had no eye for the poet's "mighty Moon" or other secrets of nature.18

Other concepts today associated with "nature" also have to do with landscapes maintained for certain classes. The word "forest", for example, originally meant, in English, not a place of trees but a place of deer for royal use.19 Forests were usually relatively sparsely wooded, and it was only by prevention of customary use and clearing that they became more so. Foresters were clients of the monarch who administered forests for his or her personal and political use: Geoffrey Chaucer was rewarded for faithful service to Richard II by being made an under-forester of a Royal Forest in Somerset. "Park", similarly, was first used in England and Scotland to designate fenced-off deer preserves exclusively maintained for a largely urban aristocracy for whom hunting privileges were a mark of status and power.20 Later, "landscape parks" became a fashion and mark of prestige and standing which spread from royalty downward, often at the expense of local land claims. In some cases, villages were uprooted in order to create pleasing prospects with manicured or (alternatively) wild-looking greenery and aesthetically-grouped trees.21 It's no coincidence that the phrase "nation's park" was invented by George Catlin, a 19th century US landscape painter, who, like many of his European counterparts, could admit human occupants into the scenery he cherished only if they were demoted to being more or less part of a "nature" which was Wholly Other. Catlin's national park, he declared in 1841, would be a "pristine" place

"where the world could see for ages to come, the native Indian in his classic attire, galloping his wild horse, with sinewy bow, and shield and lance, amid the fleeting herds of elks and buffaloes ... containing man and beast, in all the wildness and freshness of their nature's beauty!"22

Catlin's declaration prefigures what I've elsewhere called Green Orientalism, which seeks a counterpoint to an imagined, stereotyped "modernity" in "traditional peoples in harmony with nature".23 Unfortunately, the Native American bands who were accustomed to using the Yellowstone area at the time Catlin wrote -- including Shoshone, Sheepeater, Bannock and Blackfoot -- must have failed their screen test. When the world's first national park was established there a few decades later they were kicked out of a space whose "natural", paintable wonders they had helped shape, in order to make it into what was called a "pleasuring ground" for white visitors. Some 300 were killed in clashes in 1877 alone.24

This "landscape" picture of a nature from which ordinary human labor has been subtracted is disturbingly close to the one that 20th-century conservationism has inherited. In the 1950s, the renowned conservationist Bernhard Grzimek characterized Africa as "the ultimate and last paradise of all our yearnings" and said that its "national parks must remain primordial wildernesses to be effective. No men, not even native ones, should live inside its borders."25 Grzimek forgot to mention that his "primordial wildernesses" were among the longest-occupied places on earth, but few of his colleagues thought it important to catch him up on the error. The well-documented accompaniments of the Grzimekian vision include the alienation by national parks and game reserves of the best parts of Maasai rangeland, increased competition for food between livestock and wildlife, overgrazing, loss of stewardship knowledge, summary execution of members of indigenous groups, transformation of the ethnic boundary between Maasai and white tourist and hunter into something of an armed frontier, and, as the conservationist dichotomy between humans and nature began to acquire the characteristics of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the frustration of many conservationist goals.26

The production of this human/nature imaginary continues today to be built into the functioning of environmental institutions. In the 1980s, for instance, Viet Nam was generally described by international conservationists as a pretty dismal place for wildlife. Yet three new large mammal species were "discovered" there by conservation science in the 1990s (although they had of course long been known to locals). Suddenly World Wide Fund for Nature put out press releases about a "lost world seemingly untouched ... and possibly teeming with new species". As Pam McElwee acerbically notes, WWF neglected to mention that this so-called "lost world" where the new species were discovered "was previously a timber enterprise, that 20,000 people lived there, and that the heavily bombed Ho Chi Minh trail ran through it".27 Vietnamese researchers subsequently found that the saola, one of the "new" species, thrived on secondary forest growth and cleared land. Yet the same researchers simultaneously advocated total protected area status for the saola's habitat, which would necessitate the eviction of local minority-group peoples who maintain that habitat. It's as if such areas have to be cleansed conceptually -- made "pristine" in people's minds -- before they are cleansed in reality.

The Mapping Imaginary in Science

"Although whichever propositions are true may depend on the data, the fact that they are even candidates for being true is a consequence of an historical event."

Ian Hacking

The persistence of the human/nature mapping imaginary in such examples should alert us to the fact that it is neither a "model" nor a set of false beliefs which might be removed and replaced like a video cassette in a VCR. Rather, it is a condition for international discourse in a genre of performance which, for diverse institutional reasons, is necessarily largely indifferent to truth. The WWF officers in Viet Nam presumably understood that their statements about a "lost world" were false, but nevertheless felt that they were necessary to uphold because of the need to communicate to WWF's "public" the importance of the sites it wanted to "save". Similarly, Birdlife International, an international conservation NGO working on plans for a park in Halmahera, Indonesia in the mid-1990s, did not include the resident Forest Tobelo in any of their management schemes because to do so would interfere with the government's pre-existing agenda of moving people out of the forest and thus might scupper official approval of the park.28 By the same token, many Thai forestry officials are well aware of the comparatively marginal role of forest-dwelling minority highlanders in forest destruction, but have institutional reasons to identify them as the nation's leading agents of deforestation.29

Conservationists and foresters are not the only ones who have to participate in practices which imagine humans and nature into separate, bordered territories. The same is true of many forest-dwelling peoples themselves. In Thailand, to cement alliances with lowlander-dominated non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academics, Karen and other upland or highland groups, occasionally to their annoyance, tend to have to buy into a problematic according to which what has to be proved to "the public" is that "people can live with the forest"; the question is seldom asked whether forests can survive without the residence of such groups. Both the necessity and the limits of such strategies are well-understood.30 In January 1998, in the Karen village of Mae Khong Saai in Chiang Dao district, I listened to highlanders from different ethnic groups discussing racism in a way oppressed groups might do anywhere in the world: the routine police harrassment; the crime-journalism practice of tagging minority-group members detained for offenses with (usually derogatory) ethnic terms while others were merely identified by name, and so on. At one point a visiting Hmong headman spoke up to warn his Karen friends: Be careful how you preserve your forest. As soon as you are able to demonstrate your success, officials and conservationists will try to take it away from you. He hardly needed to add: they will claim that the reason the forest is still good is that you were never there. The occasion of the get-together in Mae Khong Saai, as it happened, was for a grassroots-level review of a weighty 297-page volume documenting the biodiversity-preserving practices of three forest communities threatened by eviction from protected areas in Chiang Dao, Samoeng and Mae Waang districts of Chiang Mai.31 Some weeks earlier a Forest Department official had been asked during a seminar for his reactions to the research results (which had been put together by a team of NGO personnel, local villagers and others). He replied that the book was very convincing. But, he said, what about the hundreds of mountain villages other than the three which were under study? Surely these three had to be a rare exception to the rule which said that humans and forests belonged in separate spheres.

Even social scientists critical of standard national parks policy, and sympathetic to indigenous rights, usually reproduce in their speech a hard-core conservationist nature/human dichotomy, repeating oxymoronic phrases like "the state's policy of excluding people from parks" and "people vs. parks". So, too, the research and results of natural scientists continues to be guided by the dichotomy, which is thereby further reinforced. If such dichotomies do not usually play the role of testable, falsifiable assertions, they are nonetheless a crucial part of professional science. Thus in mountainous northern Thailand, forests are officially assumed to have survived despite, rather than because of, the fact that they are occupied by ethnic minorities. The presence of good forest is automatically attributed to the relative absence of human influence, rather than the presence of a particular kind of human influence. Investigators in the region seldom probe the forest-degrading activities of the powerful lowland majority ethnic group either in the highlands or the lowlands, where, in any case, forests have already been largely depleted. Instead, the critical scientific gaze is directed mainly onto agricultural activities of highland minorities, who occupy land where, regardless of its ecosystem merits relative to lowland areas, conservation funding is concentrated. The net result is a science accentuating the dichotomy between "sensitive" highland forests and "expendable" lowland forests. Following on are schemes to resettle the minorities or, at best, to try to "reconcile" their livelihood with "the environment". One practical result of this stance is that no followup studies are typically done to observe forest decline after locals are evicted, with the result that there is "no scientific evidence" that such areas would be any worse without strict state control.

Just as city planners in Los Angeles or London are often inclined to site dirty new factories near older ones in poorer neighborhoods occupied by ethnic minorities because these are already environmentally "spoiled", so conservationists in Southeast Asia often concentrate their activities on mountains because they have the "best and most easily-protected forest". In both cases an impeccably scientific logic leads to a discriminatory outcome. Similarly, many conservation biologists intent on the idea that they are analyzing "natural systems" continue to

"ignore the fact that they are really observing relationships between organisms and environments that have been influenced by humankind over thousands of years... Even when they do not ignore human influences, such 'natural systems' biologists typically treat human presence as a purely negative phenomenon, a nuisance or irritation".32

Again, the result will be a bias against certain social groups. Yet assumptions leading to biased outcomes are necessarily built into all science, the best as well as the worst. Politics "goes all the way down" here, as elsewhere. The only questions are what sort of biases will be produced and how transparent they will be to various groups. As things stand, they are not very transparent to professional groups of any kind. To borrow language from the anti-racist movement in the US, even the best-intentioned conservationists' own "whiteness" will often be invisible to them. This is structural racism at its most structural.

Colonialism, Nationalism, Environmentalism

"We increasingly face a racism which avoids being recognized as such because it is able to link 'race' with nationhood, patriotism and nationalism, a racism which has taken a necessary distance from the crude ideas of biological inferiority and superiority and now seeks to present an imaginary definition of the nation as a unified cultural community."

Paul Gilroy

As with ethnic mapping, the discriminatory aspects of the mapping of humans against nature are tightly related to colonialism and modern nationalism.

Supposedly human-free wildernesses have long been useful symbols for nationalistic elites. In the US, national parks were originally established not for "environmental" reasons so much as to enshrine majestic scenery which was felt to be an emblem of US identity and a fitting counterpart to European cultural achievements. Part of the appeal of wilderness to white US citizens is that it forms the backdrop for one of the country's origin myths: the conquest of the frontier by civilized Europeans. In 1991 the Smithsonian Institution dared to question this human/nature boundary by staging an exhibition pointing out that European expansion in the Western US was not just an encounter with "nature", as it had often been presented in painting, but also between whites and other ethnic groups including African-Americans, Native Americans and Chinese. Right-wing senators went into an uproar, fearing that the idea menaced national identity and stability. Similar if subtler patterns are noticeable elsewhere, as when the Italian mainland environmental group "Italia Nostra" recently joined battle with highland Sardinians over the establishment of a national park on their island. The implications for ethnic discrimination are often clear-cut. In South Africa, Kruger National Park was established in 1926 as a unifying symbol for white national identity.33 More recently, the Bangkok middle-class "public" and foreign environmentalists as well as Thai bureaucracies and businesses have laid claims to the country's remoter forests, partly recategorizing them from minority-inhabited (non-mueang or non-city) paa or (uncivilized) thuean to "natural" spaces suitable for national celebration in glossy color nature magazines.

The concept of nature as non-human is even the same kind of concept as the concept of a nation. Like the nation, the practice of mapping humans against nature is one of Ben Anderson's "quotidian universals".34 Just as every place on the planet has now become part of a nation, with every nation equipped with a capital and a president and a five- or ten-year development plan, so too every nation must now have national parks in which attempts are made to embody the fictitious ideal of a humanless nature, often at much pain both to people and to other living things. "In the modern world ... a country without a national park can hardly be recognized as civilized", Julian Huxley, Director General of UNESCO, informed African elites in the 1960s, who soon found their own reasons for going along.35 Such parks spread as many other practices of the nation spread, not by imitation, not because they were necessarily a brilliant idea, but through, among other things, contact and coordination among world-traveling professional classes and the funds to which they have access, as well as the dialectic between states and the peoples and other living things they attempt to administer. While many Southeast Asian ruling elites publicly profess suspicion of insidious currents of "Western culture" like lack of respect for elders, sexual immorality, or investigative journalism, the concept of the national park, like those of development or the nation itself, is largely safe from their strictures. The national park or protected area is Thai; it is Indonesian; it is Vietnamese. So is the human/nature dichotomy itself. To the often-noted historical conjunction colonialism--nationalism a third term can perhaps be added: environmentalism/developmentalism.

One outcome of human/nature boundary-marking practices is not only to extend state control -- as has been well documented in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand as well as in Kenya, India, China and elsewhere36 -- but also to further the modern nation-state's own projects of racial assimilation/exclusion. As Chris Duncan and Pam McElwee conclude,

"By creating parks and resettling local people outside of these areas into state-established villages, each country in Southeast Asia is continuing a long history of policies of controlling citizens through resettlement and sedentarization. In this way, parks are not only about biological resources, but about creating citizenries."37

Such citizenries generally must conform to the right cultural norms, a project international agencies are only too happy to support. For example, in a development/environment scheme which would affect 60 million people in China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam, the Vice-President of the Asian Development Bank has recently proposed to "reduce the population of people in mountainous areas and bring them to normal life".38

Those who cannot successfully be made "normal" will presumably remain "abnormal" and their livelihood practices criminalized -- squatters, poachers, threats to both "the environment" and "the nation".

My point in sketching this background, again, is not to argue that practices of imagining humans and nature into mutually exclusive, fixed territories are "incorrect", nor to claim that all traces of them, along with their associated techniques and technologies, should or can somehow be expunged from society. Rather, it's to sharpen awareness of their biases, histories and entailments, as well as the presence and possibility of other lineages and practices, in a way which helps open this imaginary up to democratic discussion, contestation, and negotiation.39 Being able to mention racism in the same breath as environmentalism and developmentalism, being able to see them as belonging in many ways to the same subject matter, is important not only for understanding, but also for alliance. US environmental justice groups have long argued that if logging out Sarawak can be seen as an ecological offense, then so should industrial pollution in minority communities in Los Angeles. Conversely, if the violation of particular US ethnic groups' rights to unpolluted neighborhoods (as well as public space and reasonably-priced food) can be seen as manifestations of structural racism, then so can the disproportionate concern on the part of nature preservationism with highlands in Southeast Asia which provide indigenous groups with their forest "supermarkets" and agricultural fields. A case study of a conflict over water and forests in northern Thailand offers one way of recapitulating, extending and making concrete these themes.

Ethnic Tensions and Violence

Thailand has often been noted for its relative lack of ethnic strife. Yet the country's more than half million hill dwelling minority groups have endured abuse and threats of resettlement for decades.40 Recent events in Chiang Mai province in the mountainous north of the country reveal a potential for increased racial provocation and violence for reasons of "nature".

Chom Thong is a district of 1,736 square kilometres encompassing some 106 villages, half lowland, half upland or highland. Here, over the past decade, conservationists from both Thailand and the West have been working with state bureaucracies and politicians in ways which promote greater elite and state control over mountain resources while exploiting, reworking and exacerbating lowland-highland ethnic tensions. On 22 March 1998, a lowland "green" group advocating relocation of highlanders as a way of solving water shortages, accompanied by National Park officials, invaded a mountain village, tore down pavilions sheltering Buddha images, and removed two images.41 In April, May and June, roads leading to the highlands were blocked by lowlanders demanding immediate removal of highland dwellers, causing considerable hardship in the hills, with the offenders enjoying immunity from police action.42 On 24 June, a group of lowlanders including the chief of Doi Inthanon National Park ascended to a royal development project in the hills and attempted to destroy agricultural pipes and canals.43 Amid a well-orchestrated atmosphere of anti-highlander emotion, the Thai cabinet resolved in June to relocate highland communities living in ecologically "sensitive" areas, reversing the previous government's undertaking to respect the land rights of communities established before protected areas were gazetted and to explore environmental solutions which would allow many mountain communities to remain in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.44

Tensions came to a head again in the following year when, early in the morning of 19 May 1999, some 2,500 peaceful demonstrators, including indigenous residents of Chom Thong as well as other highland and lowland villagers from 300 communities in eight provinces of the North, were harrassed by teams of agents provocateurs before being dispersed from the area around Chiang Mai Provincial Hall by approximately 1,000 Forest Department personnel and 500 police and Special Branch officers on the orders of provincial governor Prawit Sisophon. The demonstrators, who had been gathered since 25 April to continue their campaign for rights to live in watershed and protected forest areas as well as for legal recognition of the de facto citizenship of many minority group members, saw their encampment broken up and many of their possessions trashed by Forest Department employees just as they were about to be addressed by high-ranking ministry officials with whom they had been negotiating, largely successfully, for a reconsideration of plans to evict them from their homes. The demonstrators were then slandered by Forest Department officials as "foreigners" (khon tang daaw) and illegal immigrants (khon thuean, carrying connotations of "jungle", "uncivilized", "savage" and "outlaw"). University faculty advising the demonstrators were pilloried a few days later by members of a nature conservation group, the Chom Thong Headwater Forest and Environment Conservation Club, as Communists and as people "selling out the country" (khaay chaat) for foreign money. Effigies of Chiang Mai University anthropologists Chayan Wattanaphuti and Anan Ganjanapan and sociologist Shalardchai Ramitanond were burned, as they had been in 1998. By summer, anonymous death threats had been issued to Chayan as well as the historian Nithi Iawsriwong, also of Chiang Mai University. After Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai was seen handing Governor Prawit the tape of a BBC Thai Service report on a discussion of the northern Thai forest situation at the June 1999 Thai Studies conference in Amsterdam, the latter went before the press to accuse local academics once again of khaay chaat and of

"drawing khon theuan into our province. These khon theuan fill our homes, our city -- they take our jobs and destroy our resources, our watersheds, our forests. In the future all these people will cause new problems, no less severe than the current illegal drug problems., they will have children and children's children all over the place... I don't know how many... living in our cities, living in our muncipalities, in this area, how many? Living in all sorts of other communities -- swarming."45

In the background of this heightening of ethnic tensions can be discerned both economic and ecological changes and jockeying among local and national power-holders, but also the influence of international environmentalism.

Economic and Ecological Changes

Until fairly recently, highland and lowland economies in many regions of North Thailand were linked in ways which reproduced ethnicity and a certain degree of ethnic tension, but which also militated against extreme ethnic violence. For example, lowlanders and highlanders cooperated for mutual benefit in the opium business. Traders acting for the state Opium Monopoly (set up in 1852 following British prodding) profited from official promotion of domestic poppy cultivation in the hills after 1947.46 Lowlanders took part in cultivation, harvest, trade, and provision of fertilisers and pesticides, while highlanders of several ethnic groups were attracted to poppy-growing as a way of fostering egalitarianism and independence.47 Karen hill-dwellers, to take another example, contracted to raise lowlanders' cattle and buffaloes in return for calves, with periodic friendly visits between the two parties enlivened by common hunting and gathering expeditions.48 Symbiotic lowland-highland trade relations have also been important, and officials' sense that highlanders' ethnicity can be marketed as a tourist commodity may have moderated pressures to concentrate them in reservations.49

Such modes of coexistence have nonetheless been accompanied by longstanding patterns of oppression and insult whose impact has often been underestimated by even the most sympathetic members of dominant lowland ethnic groups.50 As lowland farmers, developers and bureaucracies alike have encroached on the hills, state agencies' (and, often, NGOs') insistence on hierarchy and a superior position within it have been exacerbated by official attempts to recast ethnic identity, religion and language as sharply-bounded, either/or categories. For several decades, in the course of their work in staking claims to contested resources, battling insurgency, responding to the concerns of other countries, centralizing administrative control and fortifying their image as problem-solvers in the hills of Northern Thailand, state agencies have been attempting to draw new territorial boundaries on the land and new ethnic boundaries on the body of society. These boundaries have the effect of scapegoating mountain minorities for a variety of ills. Placing the neologism chaaw khaw (which translates as either "hilltribes" or "them people") in a punning, rhyming binary opposition with chaaw raw ("us people") -- and sometimes even opposing chaaw khaw to chaaw baan, the term usually translated as "villagers" -- officials have often managed to stifle discussion of the deeper causes of social problems.51

For example, after official authorization for opium commerce was withdrawn in 1958 under international pressure, blame for the new "opium problem" was often attached to highland minorities, whose "cultural affinity" for the crop became a focus of solemn analysis even by officials and non-minorities profiting directly from the drug trade.52 The fact that many highland minority communities, particularly Hmong, joined, or were pushed by government persecution into, the ill-fated movement of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in the 1960s and 1970s added new edge to official stereotypes of mountain dwellers as outlaws. At the same time, a number of Hmong communities who had supported the government side and been persuaded to act as bulwarks against the CPT by settling and farming alongside new strategic roads punched into the forest were accused of forest encroachment and dispossessed as soon as the Communist movement collapsed in 1982.53

Responsibility for resource conflicts which have been partly the result of extensive state-sanctioned commercial deforestation -- the Royal Forest Department leased approximately half Thailand's land area to commercial logging concessionaires between 1969 and 1979 alone -- is often attributed to "hilltribes", the group least able to defend itself against the charge. Here the state has drawn strength from longstanding official international biases against swidden cultivation (for example, on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization), against mobile populations, and against minority highlanders' forestry practices. During the 1980s, for example, although mountain minorities' activities were the proximate cause of perhaps five per cent of annual deforestation, and were restricted to the northern and western parts of the country, they were regularly named by officials and Ph.D. technocrats as the primary cause of the entire country's deforestation problem.54 In Chom Thong, such practices of blame helped gloss over a history of state-promoted teak logging by British companies from the 1930s as well as extraction of hardwoods for tobacco curing and timber from the 1940s through the 1970s.55

The ground for the recent ethnic violence in district has been further prepared both by an unravelling of economic, political and cultural relationships between highlands and lowlands and by more extensive resource use in both lowlands and highlands. Efforts to break up the opium economy, for example, have cut one economic link between highland and lowland interests, with foreign, multilateral and national anti-drug funds being poured not only into Thai military operations but also into crop-substitution programmes introducing cabbages, fruit trees and other cash crops to highlanders. For instance, the Thai-Norwegian Church Aid Highland Development Project has promoted commercial, chemical-intensive monocultures of cabbages among local Hmong villages, using foreign funding for a project which has unwittingly exacerbated ethnic tensions. At the same time, highland projects under the patronage of Queen Sirikit have established pine monocultures on pastures which had been old opium fields, as well as water-intensive horticultural schemes.

Many lowlanders, meanwhile, have participated in independent commercialization processes, turning rice fields and degraded forest areas into longan orchards, soybean plots and pig farms, and producing charcoal from remaining forested areas. With official backing, lowland cultivation has expanded to the base of the hills and beyond.56 Both patterns of commercialization have had far-reaching unintended consequences. Pushing highlanders into cash cropping has meant neglecting the potential for building on other, better-established patterns of agriculture, has contaminated streams with chemicals, and is perceived by many conservationists as having resulted in increased forest clearance.57 Meanwhile, with a quadrupling of lowland double-cropping within the last quarter-century, and the spread of commercial longan orchards, water consumption in the lowlands has multiplied many-fold, particularly in the dry season.58 When water supplies are squeezed during a drought, as during 1998, and politicians seeking lowlanders' votes join officials in scapegoating highland minorities,59 the stage is set for intractable highland-lowland strife. Tentative efforts dating from the early 1990s by highland minorities and traditional lowland irrigation groups to work out new agreements over water use have not been enough to mend the ruptured connections.

Multiple Mapping

"We are the losers."

Motto pinned up over the village head's door in the Hmong village of Paa Kluay, Chom Thong district, 1999

Scientific/political practices of figurative or literal human/nature mapping are entangled in complex ways in Chom Thong with practices of mapping ethnicity, the nation, religion and "indigenousness". Teasing apart these practices may illuminate some of the ways they work.

(1) Human/Nature Mapping

The establishment by Thai elites, under the tutelage of US and other international conservationists, of parks and wildlife reserves, helped to entrench a grid of interpretation under which causality for forest and other environmental problems can be disproportionately attributed to mountain minorites. A simplified people-vs.-trees narrative of forest decline was superimposed on the realities of forest history, making it possible to reinterpret the character and persistence of highland forests as a result of the relative absence of human influence rather than of human stewardship or commercial inaccessibility. In line with this narrative, and with the classic racist double bind, land was dichotomized into permanent agricultural fields, into which all human livelihood activity was to be assimilated, and forests, from which humans and their activities were to be "excluded". No room was left for intermediate or liminal forms such as forest fallows and temporary fields. All types of swidden agricultural systems were lumped together, stigmatized as irrational, destructive rai luean lccy (literally, "drifting" dryland agriculture) and, although lowlanders also practice swidden, claimed to be the invention and property of the abstract group called chaaw khaw or "hilltribes".60 In 1986, one forestry official even went so far as to justify relocation of minority highlanders by saying that the "Hmong entered Thailand deliberately to destroy the forest and ethnic Thai practice slash-and-burn agriculture only because of the example of the hill tribes".61 The supposed disorderliness and "un-Tai" nature of swidden helped make it subject to moral, scientific and legal strictures from which other, often more invasive or damaging activities practised by the dominant ethnic group -- mining, construction of dams, roads, tourist resorts, and plantations, all regarded as disciplined "development" activities and enjoying the backing of local powers -- remained immune. The practice of some upland or highland inhabitants such as certain Karen communities of themselves keeping some areas permanently off limits to cultivation meanwhile stayed invisible from above. Admitting the existence of such minority-defined forest spaces would have meant acknowledging the possibility of limiting the role of the state in forest protection; and because such areas were usually unposted, unfenced, and governed through orally-transmitted rules rather than official written documents, they tended in any case to be "unreadable" by office-based officials. Forests devoid of field systems or visible community stewardship became aesthetically-valuable exhibits symbolizing control, hierarchy, and ecological value to agency chiefs (jaw naay)62 and city-based conservationists alike. In Chom Thong, where Doi Inthanon National Park, established in 1972, now encloses over three dozen villages, and Ob Luang National Park, gazetted in 1991, encroaches on still more, expansion of state territorial control through national park management, besides criminalizing cultivation on fallow lands, use of forest commons, and unregistered land use, has entailed continual uncertainty, harassment and threats for highland minorities.

Today, conservationists often characterize forests worked over by state officials, plantation workers, tourists, road-builders, royal palace personnel and so forth, and influenced by the distinctive fire and erosion regimes they introduce, as "undisturbed" or "restored", whereas forests under the fire and agricultural stewardship of highland farmers are viewed as "degraded" or "endangered" by definition. When large fires broke out in Doi Inthanon National Park during March 1998, for example, it was immediately reported in Thai newspapers and by some government officials that the culprits were highland minority communities. Subsequent investigation revealed that this was a reflex reaction,63 the fires having been battled day after day by some of the very minority villagers accused of setting them.64 In another move which uses a scientific justification for claiming the highlands for the exclusive use of a particular ethnic group, areas occupied by non-Tai ethnic groups have became prime targets for "watershed protection". In the mid-1980s, the National Watershed Classification applied special 1A protected status to many highland areas. This move again had the effect of both criminalizing highland agriculture and implicitly licensing, ex post facto, the exploitation of now-degraded or already-converted lowland forests, which have been categorized as having few hydrological functions and cast in the role of a "naturally" suitable substrate for agriculture.65 The simplified human/forest dichotomy of national park and "watershed" ideology has thus tended to mystify different historical patterns of forest clearance in highlands and lowlands.

Helping to draw borders on the new human/nature map of Chom Thong are non-governmental conservationist organizations. Particularly prominent is the Dhammanaat Foundation. Set up in the mid-1980s by a charismatic Buddhist abbot, phra ajaan Pongsak Techadhammo, and granted a hill concession by the Royal Forest Department, Dhammanaat, in addition to its plantation and fire-prevention activities, has vigorously campaigned for an "urgent termination of settlement" in what it calls "upper watershed" or "headwater" forests. The foundation argues, plausibly, that given the special soil and other characteristics of these forests, they act as a giant "sponge" holding and slowly releasing water to the rivers below. Several conclusions are then drawn from this assumption: first, that exploitation of these forests is what explains recent lowland water shortages; second, that these forests ensure the "survival of everyone in the nation";66 and third, that it follows that agriculture must cease there. Dhammanaat is particularly incensed by the highland forest destruction and agricultural water use it sees as associated with commercial cabbage-growing promoted by foreign and national agencies, and the drying up of streams which it regards as the result, although it continues to attach responsibility for these projects to the Hmong communities who were targeted by these agencies. The foundation itself has made efforts to secure a resettlement site for the Hmong communities it wishes to be "voluntarily" relocated -- a site which, it asserts, will not be subject to the failures which have dogged other resettlement efforts.67

Led by British-educated mom rachawong Smansanid Svasti, a minor member of the Thai royal family, Dhammanaat has a number of powerful allies. Forestry department personnel and military officers alike have responded enthusiastically to an approach stressing the importance of official control of well-marked conservation territories. In the highlands, Dhammanaat personnel have been seen to cooperate closely with armed military Rangers, Third Army personnel and Forest Department officers.68 Many urban-based middle-class nature lovers are meanwhile attracted to this particular conservationist banner by a vision of a strictly-bounded, modernized, non-human, Buddhist-sanctioned, contemplatable "nature" under secure hierarchical state (i.e., lowland) management and out of the control of "primitive" tribes.69 UN agencies, foreign government bodies and foreign environmental NGOs also applaud Dhammanaat as an exemplar of indigenous environmentalism. The foundation's work has been endorsed warmly by leading British green Jonathon Porritt, film director David Puttnam, and wildlife documentary presenter David Attenborough, who said in a recent interview on the Chom Thong issue that he did not have time to discuss indigenous peoples. Phra Pongsak received a United Nations Environment Programme award in 1990, and the organization is also regularly nominated by members of its international network for the Swedish-based Right Livelihood Award based in Sweden, the "Alternative Nobel Prize". At various points, Dhammanaat has also been financially supported by the British, German and Canadian governments, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Ford Foundation and the Prince of Wales. Appreciative documentaries treating the foundation's activities, in addition, have been aired in Australia, Sweden and the UK.70 As Dhammanaat itself points out, phra Pongsak Techadhammo's "ideas have been more quickly appreciated in the international community" than among Thais.71

At the same time, Dhammanaat's simple message appeals to many ordinary lowlanders who are suffering water shortages and economic hardship at a time of financial crisis. One of its major activities, critics charge, has been to mobilize local forces who can patrol and enforce, violently if necessary, the human/nature boundaries it has helped draw.72 The Chom Thong Headwater Forest and Environment Conservation Club, for example, which organized the 1998 roadblocks and Buddha-image confiscation, as well as aggressive demonstrations against intellectuals defending indigenous rights, is closely advised by Dhammanaat.73 In 1985, Dhammanaat directed the erection of an 18-kilometre, 10-strand barbed wire fence around mountain ridges near Paa Kluay village. Aimed at dividing villagers from the forest, it also blocked them from entering their fallow, 150-odd hectares of rice swidden and cabbage cultivation areas, and from carrying out fire-prevention and other forest-protection activities. The fence, which violated the National Forest Reserve Law, was protested by the then governor of Chiang Mai province, but to no avail.74 Some 27 Hmong people were rendered landless and rice shortages affected the village.75 Similarly, Hmong communities have been largely excluded from forest management planning for the Mae Soi valley; their participation is seen as properly restricted to falling in with resettlement plans.76

(2) Mapping The Nation

At the level of language, highlanders have often been set apart from lowlanders by an apocalyptic, nationalist turn of phrase like that used in the racist and volkish discourse of the New Right in Europe -- one which tends to fuse concepts of ethnic identity with those of race, blood and nation.77 Identifying highland minorities as "foreigners" justifies treating them as high-priority targets for action on ecological problems which have varied and complex origins and ignoring a history of logging, government extension, lowland agricultural practices, increasing water consumption and climate change. Thus phra Pongsak Techadhammo has warned his followers that a "calamitous drought is spreading across the whole country, withering the land because a small group of people have migrated into Thailand from neighbouring countries":

"Should anyone insist that human rights take precedence over this law of nature, ... then these people must take responsibility for the destruction of the people of our nation, the land and the life of that land ... The blood in our veins and the water in the highland streams are connected... Which is the larger undertaking -- ensuring the survival of our land and our nation or the resettlement of the hilltribes?"78

When Dhammanaat directed the erection of another barbed-wire fence in June 1998 to divide the mountain communities from "nature", painting the fence posts in red, white and blue (the colours of Thailand's national flag), it was seen by local minority groups as an attempt to redemarcate the boundaries of the nation within the locality: those on one side of the fence belonged to the Thai "nation"; those on the other did not. Dhammanaat has denied that the fence in fact had any such intention; yet the claim to be defending both "nature" and "the nation" simultaneously is ubiquitous in the organization's rhetoric. The pattern has been repeated in the attack on Thai minority groups as "aliens" (khon taang daaw) in speeches and leafletting by the Chom Thong Conservation Club and the Royal Forest Department.

(3) Mapping The Ethnic Hierarchy

In Chom Thong, fortifying the human/nature boundary is closely tied up with enforcing the hierarchical boundaries drawn between ethnic groups. Mobilizing ordinary lowlanders willing to try to make their nominal social status as "more developed" than highland minorities count for something has not been difficult in a time of increased resource conflict. In July 1997, a Bangkok journalist, in a series of inflammatory newspaper articles, wrote revealingly of the logic of resentment which makes Hmong highlanders a special "target of animosity from the lowlands":79

"[I]t is not just because the ... Hmongs clear watershed forest areas for cultivation ... It's probably because the Hmongs are getting richer than the lowland farmers. Traditionally, the lowland farmers have looked down on the minority tribes. Now, the tables are turned ... In Baan Paa Kluay, [Hmong villagers] buy pickup trucks,80 deposit cash in banks and buy longan orchards ... the formerly migrant minorities are building an increasing number of permanent houses ... The money comes from the sale of cabbages and flowers.

"Dr Suchira Prayoonpitak [a Dhammanaat spokesperson and Payap University sociologist] explained how the highland farmers have increased their needs for material goods. Highlanders used to farm for self-support. Now, they're into commercial farming, she explained ... 'They change their farming methods to increase their earnings, without considering possibly negative repercussions on the environment and on human health.' Local sales of electrical appliances, farm equipment, personal luxuries and modern conveniences have been slowly but steadily increasing, as seen in their houses ... Dr Suchira said over 130 Hmong families of nearly 800 members are presently living in Chom Thong district. 'They have damaged four to five streams and rivers that feed lowland farms,' she said."

The reporter meanwhile discerns a pattern of unseemly uppityness in highlanders' actions:

"While the highlanders continue to consider the mountain slopes their private fiefdom, shrugging off lowland rules and regulations, they only have stubbornness and inaccessibility on their side. The authorities are lowlanders, so the lowland farmers have an edge in this battle of wills ... Will the highlanders meekly go to relocation areas? Will the natural balance be restored soon enough for the lowlanders to be happy? Or will there be war?"

For Hmong to step over the boundaries that have been laid down for appropriate behavior for their ethnic group is thus linked to their stepping over the nature/human boundary by farming cabbages commercially.

(4) Mapping Religion

In Chom Thong, Buddhism has been a contested medium and resource in environmental struggle. On the one hand, the popular view adopted by elite green groups active in the area -- according to which a neutral, oracular conservation science floats free of its social context, deriving neither inspiration nor direction nor authority, questions, methods, theories and facts from social sources, but entirely from a purified Natural and non-racialized Other which reveals itself in due course to a properly-sensitized priesthood through the oracles of instruments, observations, textbooks, and the "scientific method" itself.81 -- has been strengthened by its fusion with intellectualistic strains of modern Buddhist thought which locate the roots of social and environmental problems in a lack of "correct understanding" of an unchanging and unquestionable "Nature" which dictates the form a moral and "correct" society must take.82 One late abbot revered by the progressive middle class, and said to be an influence on phra Pongsak Techadhammo, saw this society as realizable only through a "Buddhist socialist democracy which is guided by dhamma and managed by a 'dictator' whose character [charisma] exemplifies the ten Royal Virtues (dasarajadhamma)".83 This dictator, of a non-hereditary ksatriya class, would be necessary to "expedite" the society's achievement of an "original state of nature or human condition" -- one without multiplying, unsatisfiable material desires and without accumulation, in which the needs of society as a whole superseded those of individuals. Such views can be used in support of the position that once all parties are imbued by aristocratic, scientific or priestly elites with a correct understanding of hydrological principles, resettlement of minority groups will follow as a matter of course.84 Sermons against "desires that cannot be satisfied" can meanwhile be selectively directed against highland minorities who, supposedly unlike the lowland majority, have "destroyed forests not to support human life but for riches, for financial gain".85 According to phra Pongsak, forest conservation

"is not a matter of differing personal opinions. It is a matter of truth and lie, a matter of upholding the truth or destroying and ignoring the laws of nature ... The blood in our veins and the water in the highland streams are connected. When the forests are felled and the balance of nature is destroyed, the life capacity of the earth diminishes. It is not within our power to stop this. We cannot change a law of nature... If those who are destroying [forests] ... would leave the area, our problems would be solved. Let us have no more talk".86

At the same time, conservationists have aggressively attempted to exclude minority communities from, as it were, also assuming the Buddhist high ground. When Chom Thong conservationists and officials seized the highland village's Buddha images in March 1998, they were not merely attacking a minority community. They were also contesting what they saw as an attempt to appropriate the mantle of Buddhist legitimacy for an illicit settlement.

(5) Mapping Ethnic Traits

David Streckfuss argues that according to what he calls the colonial-era "principles of the logic of race", the "national space" of Siam whose origin Thongchai has explored had to be notionally filled to the borders with an essential "we Thai", since a "'mixed' race or ethnicity" would have "no rights within the politics of race".87 So too with the demarcation, in Chom Thong, of the imaginary conceptual space of "Hmongness" off from that of "lowland Thainess". Each territory bordering that of "Thainess" must be associated with a homogeneous set of distinctive, stereotyped, frozen cultural traits. Just as Thai are characterized baldly as "non-swiddening" peoples in conservationist literature, so Hmong are typically stereotyped not only as "non-Thai" but also as "opium-growing peoples" with an associated proclivity for forest-destructive activities in "undisturbed" forests above 1,000 metres in altitude.

(6) Mapping Ethnic Identity And "Indigenousness"

Conservationist racial oppression in Chom Thong, as elsewhere, constantly seeks fresh resources in the very concepts which oppressed groups themselves use to seek identity and legitimacy. As the terrain of international antiracist struggle has shifted from that of social equality to cultural diversity, racism itself has followed. Thus just as minority highlander groups attempt to interpret the double-edged categories "nation", "Thainess" and "development" in ways which make them as inclusive as possible, so Dhammanaat Foundation, as the most internationally-oriented conservation group operating in Chom Thong, has taken on the task of reinterpreting the newly-valorized, globally-recognized category "indigenous" -- which has been constructed partly to help link together, and mobilize international support for, groups organized in less-hierarchical polities on the periphery of nation-states88 -- in ways which support exclusion. For instance, taking advantage of tendencies within indigenous peoples' movements to yoke the legitimacy of some of their claims to chronological priority of occupation or ancestral ties to particular land areas, Dhammanaat has been able to argue that certain minority groups in Northern Thailand enjoy neither. To challenge the "ethnological" legitimacy of the many inter-ethnic alliances, movements and organizations which have emerged in Northern Thailand in the past decade, Dhammanaat also takes it upon itself to patrol what it has decided are the "proper" boundaries among different mountain-dwelling ethnic groups. For example, Dhammanaat Foundation has suggested that the Hmong ethnic group (which it regularly singles out as special ecological wrongdoers) do not have the standing to participate in the so-called "indigenous" organizations they have helped to form since they are relatively recent arrivals in what is now Thailand and are thus not "indigenous", whereas khon muang lowlanders and Lua' are. "You can just see the process of divide and rule," as Stuart Hall noted of 1970s Britain, when the Right, displaying a newfound appreciation of cultural diversity, began persistently calling attention to the separate ethnic origins of people of Caribbean, East African and Asian descent who had banded together in a self-described Black movement.89

In sum, the literal and figurative mapping practices through which attempts are made to "fix highlanders in their places" in an era of nature conservation are multiple and complexly entangled. Certain groups are not to be permitted to step over the border into an elite-defined realm of "undisturbed nature" over 1,000 metres; they are not to be permitted to step over status lines defined by certain subordinate behaviors; they are not to be permitted to avail themselves of the protection of Buddhism; they are not to be permitted to make inter-minority alliances; and they are not to be permitted to cross into the territory of "the nation". Small wonder that some have said that they often feel themselves to be "in a cage".

Countering the Maps and Counter-Mapping

Minority ethnic groups nonetheless constantly work on ways of prying apart the bars. These stratagems are in turn countered by conservationists and officials in a dynamic and ever-evolving process.

Ignoring the conservationist call to divide themselves from one another, Hmong, Karen and other ethnic groups resident in the mountains have collectively called attention to certain ironies:

  • The disproportionate survival of good forest in minority-occupied areas has paradoxically been transformed into a reason for evicting minorities.
  • Scientific evidence that lowlands have as much claim as the highlands to be territories of "nature" is ignored.90
  • Despite the self-assured assumption of the mantle of "science" by conservationists, there is little empirical evidence behind claims that extension of upland agriculture as practiced to date in Northern Thailand has resulted in increased erosion,91 that "headwater areas" have ever in the historical era been "undisturbed", or that mere residence by humans in some parts of the highlands necessarily affects water supplies in the lowlands.92 Nor has much scientific evidence been provided that monopoly bureaucratic control of highland forests would result in their preservation; indeed, most of the evidence is on the other side.
  • The water use of Hmong and Karen highlanders is studied, but not that of lowlanders. "We feel discriminated against," in the words of Kai Sai En, village head of Paa Kluay.93
  • The success of some Chom Thong Hmong in adapting themselves to the state's own remapping of the landscape (including the encroachment by national parks on their land) and the intrusion of foreign and state development agencies by adopting new, permanent-field cash crops such as cabbages -- a success for which extension officials used to hold them up as a model to other ethnic communities -- has created a backlash stigmatizing mainly the Hmong themselves. As Dhammanaat Foundation itself has noted, the public finds it easier to blame the Hmong than to try to tease out all the complicated causal chains involved.94 "You can't win, no matter what you do," noted one local Hmong village head wryly as early as 1990.95
  • At the same time Hmong are blamed by conservationists for introducing commercial agriculture in the mountains, their and other ethnic minorities' agency in resisting resettlement is denied. Their widespread opposition is attributed instead to the agency of interloping, biologically-illiterate domestic non-government organizations and academics or foreign development agencies who, ignoring the greater national good, have promised the highland minorities that they will make the highlands a "paradise" for them.96
  • Highlanders are accused of concealing illicit activities even though, with the expansion of state activity in the hills, their every move has long been under surveillance by local officials.97
  • Lowland conservationist ethnography, according to which Hmong are "not indigenous" or are stereotyped as (say) "opium-growing peoples", is contested by the peoples who are being categorized themselves. The latter stress both the previous integration of lowland and highland interests in the opium economy and the adaptations each ethnic group is making. They point out that it has become misleading to associate any particular swidden practice rigidly with any particular ethnic group; that some highland villagers are responding to environmental concerns and political necessity by switching to settled integrated farming; that several Hmong communities have worked to cut their cultivated area since the end of the opium era and do not plant opium, which is now illegal; and that non-Hmong villages have been established above 1,000 metres.98

A second strategy of resistance to environmental racism in Chom Thong is both to highlight existing "nature"-friendly practices (for instance, attempting to educate lowlanders about customary forest stewardship systems) and to develop new ones (for example, setting up new environmental organizations such as the Highland Conservation Club based at Khun Ta). On occasion there have even been attempts to "recolonize" conservationist mapping strategies. But these are risky. For example, in a self-objectivizing 1998 appeal for international support over Chom Thong, a group of indigenous support organizations in northern Thailand adopted what Bruce Willems-Braun calls the "Dances with Wolves" tactic99 by trying to position "indigenous/tribal" people of the region within the "natural" space of the Orientalist preservationist map by suggesting that they had all "preserved the land they occupied since time immemorial", setting themselves up for a damaging conservationist retort.

A final arena of contestation is international. Despite signs that some Bangkok intelligentsia are increasingly questioning some of the standard racial pieties of Thai nationalism,100 mountain-dwelling minorities are experiencing growing difficulty, in an atmosphere of environmentalist condemnation, in maintaining supportive links with official agencies within the country. In response, some see it as important to leapfrog national institutions to seek a voice in United Nations fora in which Thailand participates and in which indigenous rights are better recognized. Representatives of mountain-dwelling ethnic groups also undertook difficult trips to London and Copenhagen in 1998 and 1999 to try to convince European environmentalists and the Danish government to desist from their support for racially-divisive schemes of the Royal Forest Department and Dhammanaat Foundation and the trend toward increased official and unofficial violence which the schemes sanction.

Weak and Strong Strategies

All these strategies have roles in different arenas, but also limitations. For example, the strategy of deploying science, contrary to cliche, is probably more useful on what James Scott calls "protected sites" where alliances are mobilized in resistance to the human/nature dichotomy than it is in the bureaucratic arena. Colonialist categories which draw boundaries between the forest and its cultural, historical and evolutionary surroundings, abstract it, and relocate it within an abstract nation or globe remain "present but unthought"101 throughout professional forestry and conservationism in Thailand. For elite conservationists and bureaucrats, defenses of indigenous land and forest claims in the mountains which cite scientific evidence tend to be interpreted reflexively as the absurd claim that indigenous groups are on the "nature" side of a human/nature map.102 In this atmosphere, most minority ethnic group members don't dare criticize even to NGOs the hegemonic conservationist premise that all anthropogenic fire is damaging to all forests. Making highland minorities the "usual suspects" for deforestation results in any case, as suggested earlier, in more scientific talk being generated about the ecological drawbacks of highland cabbage cultivation than about, say, lowland water consumption, the hydrological capacity of the Ping river basin as a whole, the record of Forest Department conservation, or defences against fire, mining and illegal logging which depend on highland communities staying in place. Again, such talk cannot easily be characterized as unprofessional, ill-intentioned, or undertaken out of personal bias. On the contrary: professionalism dictates precisely that technicians get on with the business making observations about cabbages rather than wonder why they are making such observations.

Ethnic mapping is no less resistant to mere factual refutation in the public realm. Inquiry is not its function. For example, a recent public rejoinder from two dozen lowland Thai conservationist groups to charges of racism (a rejoinder endorsed by a number of British environmentalists) simply restates, unconsciously, the racist definition of highland minorities as foreigners to Thailand and as "people entering its land":

"In contrast to their reception in neighbouring countries, they have been given a welcome. The tribal minorities from nearby countries have come to enjoy a life of relative peace and prosperity on Thailand's soils, benefiting from a high level of concern."103

Given the need to preserve this ethnic map, it hardly matters that many of the villagers conservationists and the Forest Department are eager to evict are Thai citizens, are from Thailand, and contribute to Thailand's economic, political and cultural life. They are, as Pinkaew Luangaramsri points out, by definition newcomers, the Other, migrants, nomads and refugees escaping from war and harassment, who, regardless of their actual history, legal status and style of life, must be conceptualized as at odds with Thai law and Thai hierarchy.104 This mapping is invulnerable to the charges that it espouses the natural or biological superiority of any ethnic group or ignores the "anthropological idea that nations and cultures are historically constituted".105 Exclusionary attitudes toward "opium-growing peoples" as foreign to Thailand and to "nature" coexist effortlessly with an acknowledgement of the wider history of Hmong persecution and of the opium economy.

On those occasions when full-blown conservationist racial theories are successfully challenged, moreover, the response is often merely to adopt a subtler rhetorical strategy: attaching an "ethnic" predicate to a noun in a way which suggests (without stating) that the predicate is the cause of the purported problem identified by the noun. "Hmong cabbages", for instance, is a phrase habitually used by Thai and concerned foreign conservationists alike when discussing Chom Thong. Eschewing the use of the lumbering armoured division of a single, well-articulated racial theory or stereotype in favour of the deployment of a mobile swarm of fleeting, evasive guerrilla speech acts, this strategy is well-adapted to escape damaging hits from the big guns of intellectual analysis. Camouflaged as common sense, carelessness or trivia, such utterances tend to melt into the underbrush when challenged. Rationalists drawn into hot pursuit are likely to be ambushed by protestations of "but do you deny that Hmong plant cabbages?" By collapsing a multifaceted ecological history and politics into a single ethnic predicate, such epithets help clear the ground, as efficiently as any racial "theory", for the construction of the practical syllogism: cabbages cause deforestation; the cabbages are Hmong; therefore take away the Hmong.106

Far more difficult for conservationists to handle is the defense of the violence involved in attempting to enforce human/nature borders. The assault on the Buddhist pavilions in March 1998, because it was an affront to the sacred, was potentially especially offensive, and could be defended only very awkwardly as a "law-enforcement operation" aimed at recovering stolen goods. Similarly, the defense of schemes to resettle highlanders which, given massive and longstanding resistance,107 would be involuntary and probably violent, has proved a severe challenge for the conservationist organizations who have the responsibility of justifying them before foreign audiences. The only politically acceptable defense -- to pretend that "all the hilltribes want to come down" -- is ultimately an unsustainable one.108

Reproducing Racism in Middle-Class Conservationism

In sum, environmentalist practices of imagining and mapping humans and nature into separate, bounded, mutually exclusive realms advance the structural work of ethnic discrimination and racism in Southeast Asia in several ways: by reinforcing discrimination in the allocation of land and other resources; by furthering projects of nationalist and racist exclusion/assimilation of minorities; by helping extend coercive state control of land; by dichotomizing indigenous groups into enemies of "nature" or Noble Savages; by inhibiting alliance-building between racially oppressed groups and environmental organizations; and so on.

But this paper, whose topic is Southeast Asian uses of such imaginings, cannot be only about Southeast Asia. Structural racism in conservation in Southeast Asia is intimately related to structural racism in North America and Europe. This is not merely because, as I've tried to suggest, many of the practices of mapping nature against humans used in Southeast Asia have been partly shaped by Western and colonialist projects. It's also because environmental racism in Southeast Asia owes much of its power to the way racist practices are reproduced within Western environmentalist and other middle-class circles in spite of the best intentions and most meticulous professionalism of all those involved. Attention to these modes of reproduction seems to me to be a part of the work of students of Southeast Asian environmental politics qua Southeast Asianists.

While for many Southeast Asian minorities, the links between nature conservation and ethnic discrimination are common knowledge, for many Western environmentalists, technocrats, and natural and social scientists whose work has an impact on the region, these links are less than obvious. Nor can they easily be raised and analyzed in professional fora. Discrimination is a sensitive subject. "What could such issues have to do with us?" is the unspoken question. "We are far too well-educated and well-brought-up to have any truck with racism. We are trying to ensure a common future for everyone, regardless of ethnic group. If there is a problem let us have better professional training. What more needs to be said?" Many environmentalists are accustomed to thinking of ethnic discrimination and racial oppression as something that happens when people with mistaken beliefs or bad intentions get hold of something called power. The problem of racism, on this view, is a problem of individuals holding discriminatory views which they may not profess in public but hold in private and act on when they can get away with it.

My experience suggests strongly that this view must be stood on its head. I propose that the characteristic problem white middle-class Western environmentalism poses for anti-racist struggles in Southeast Asia is just the opposite. Individual Western environmentalists tend to advocate anti-racist or anti-discriminatory agendas privately and often passionately. "Despite" themselves, however, they are pushed in public into actions which reinforce racist or discriminatory political-economic structures by the acceptable practices and repertoires of performance in the professional arena, including the arena of peer-reviewed science. The problem is not environmentalists' beliefs about race, still less their morals, but rather a form of sociability specific to their scientific and other social communities, a condition of membership of which is not to probe racism too deeply.109 Raising the issue in the laboratory, the field, the paper, the staff meeting or the campaign program is prima facie evidence that one does not understand the subject matter at hand and is therefore not part of the group.

Many conservationists build mutual solidarity and a sense of privilege and uniqueness on the continual construction and repair, within their own workplaces, of nature/human boundaries of the same kind that help constitute racism and ethnic discrimination in environmental politics. Like preservationism, dominant notions of scientific objectivity rely on the idea of fencing off an imagined territory of "nature" strictly uncontaminated by human endeavor. A special group of observers is then licensed to stake out the border, grasping ever-more-powerful binoculars of scientific method, to monitor and chart the other side. To queer this origin myth by mentioning it in the same breath as explicit narratives of racial oppression is to threaten self-image and the foundations of prestige and identity within much of the scientific profession. The presumption is of a science which is somehow devoid of racism, and indeed of politics altogether, until they are (illegitimately) introduced. Self-censorship is crucial in order to make sense of this social world and to keep everybody within topics which familiar "conflict-free" scientific practices and other tools can address.

Very little of this is an intentional choice of the individuals involved. Forms of professional sociality constitute a deep and continuing problem for an environmental movement which, as it were, practices ethnic discrimination in spite of itself -- a movement which, unfortunately, is far more racist than the sum of its parts. The voluntary and civic groups recently investigated by the sociologist Nina Eliasoph offer one parallel.110 Regardless of their members' personal beliefs about race, such groups, which rely on maintaining a common faith in positive community participation, tend to avoid public discussion of racial discrimination. Among the words they use to describe such discussion are "unconstructive", "conflictual", "discouraging", "impractical", "defeatist", and (perhaps worst of all) "political". Although no individual need have chosen to be racist, black members thus tend to find their practical concerns about racism in the community unaddressed. As Jeffrey Olick and Daniel Levy have amusingly put it, mixing metaphors from J. L. Austin and from Marx, "people do things with words, but not in circumstances of their own choosing". Within conservationism, racism is replicated not so much by reinforcing or "replicating" individuals' beliefs, but by the necessity of preserving professional boundaries between science and non-science and of maintaining a civic self-image and self-identity. For environmentalists to engage individually with anti-racism more than they do at present might be a good thing, but given the rules of performance in many public spheres it's obscure how far this would go toward tackling the problem of Western environmentalist support for structural racism in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

In sum, racism is treated as "political"; therefore as having nothing to do with rational resource use. At the same time, it is treated as "individual", ahistorical and astructural; therefore as a matter that, if it is to be taken up at all, would require judgments about specific personalities, to make which is a difficult, sensitive and potentially divisive business for an already fractured environmental community. As a result, ethnic discrimination and racism are two of the great taboo topics within the environmental movement as elsewhere in the middle-class world. Amid all the talk about "political correctness" of the last couple of decades, one bit of real political correctness is the difficulty of raising issues of ethnic discrimination in a "scientific" or "responsible" discussion about environment and development because to do so risks violation of professional etiquette and the charge of changing the subject.

This taboo is critical in sustaining, in the face of grassroots anti-racist resistance, liberal Western advocacy of the mapping imaginaries that I've described. Reinterpreting ethnic discrimination and racism as matters of individual psychology, morality, belief or taste effectively keeps the issue buried. Yet the less necessary it seems to environmentalists and conservation scientists to examine their work with an eye to its structural racism, the more potent and resilient that oppression is likely to be. The attitude that natural science is, in principle, an activity in which (in Bernard Williams's phrase) a "nature" purified of human activity "inscribes itself into scientific journals without benefit of human intervention" -- or that there can exist a "science-based" or "science-led" policy whose science is not also at the same time policy-based -- is one aspect of that denial of racism which is an integral part of contemporary racial oppression.

The group norms I've described are most evident in what might be called official environmentalism. It's not only that the words "racism" or "ethnic discrimination" are seldom mentioned in, say, Asian Development Bank meetings or agency or governmental white papers on biodiversity conservation, water privatization, or carbon trading. It's more that the mere idea that the topic might be relevant would seem outlandish to many of the people involved.

Mention of the subject is also conspicuously resented by many non-governmental environmental organizations, activists and researchers.111 For some years, many of us in the UK have been trying to encourage dialogue within environmental and development movements about issues of structural racism in the population discourse, cost-benefit analysis, genetic testing, conservation projects, carbon forestry, dam projects and so on. Although there have been many positive responses, there have also been many negative ones, the more strident of which are arranged in a telling pattern. Let me quote some characteristic expressions of this pattern:

"If followup studies on the ecological effects of resettlement of indigenous peoples out of protected areas are not done in Southeast Asia, that's nobody's fault. It's just inadequate professional standards. What is needed is funding to get better-trained people out in the field."

Statement of a British environmental consultant at a 1999 conference on conservation resettlement at Oxford.

"We are a new government from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and, as you know, we were colonized, not colonizers."

Statement of Clare Short, Britain's "crusading leftist" Labor Minister for Overseas Development, explaining the refusal of a 1999 Zimbabwean request for aid to buy back land occupied by settlers under colonialism.

"I am not a racist. Name one person in the environmental movement who is a racist... I think I may have used the word 'race' once in my writing in thirty years."

Letter from a senior British environmentalist responding to a 1998 analysis of the discriminatory effects of use of the "culture" concept in contemporary environmentalism.

"[This is to] spread poison ... to conduct a witch hunt ... to make accusations. ... I personally would not be prepared to work with a racist, but I personally am satisfied that [my colleagues are] not racists. For me, that's enough."

Letter from a British environmental journalist protesting criticism of environmentalist alliances with the far right, 1999.

Such defensive and personalizing responses to accusations which have not been made are widespread. It's significant that they appear also in conservationist responses to discussions of ethnic discrimination in Chom Thong:

"[I]t serves no useful purpose to bring the issue of racism into what is essentially a discussion about how to manage people and natural resources for sustainable development in fragile ecosystems."

Statement from Thai conservationist NGOs read out at an October 1998 meeting organized in London by indigenous support organizations.

"No one [in Chom Thong] is setting out to create or make a racial dispute. No, it simply and unfortunately has an ethnic dimension as a result of [Hmong] settlement patterns. That is simply the way it is, and to dress it up with blame for prejudice ... [is] at best far fetched, at worst utterly barmy ... [this does] not contribute to a positive dialogue ... an inflammatory polemic ... aggressive... insulting ... contentious."

Letter from a British environmental NGO staff member and former canvasser of European support for Dhammanaat Foundation.

"[V]irulent denunciations ... intemperate diatribes ... [are] hardly conducive to a negotiated resolution of these issues"

Letter from a senior British environmentalist associated with the Right Livelihood Award upon being sent scholarly articles and translations relating to Chom Thong.

It might be argued that what is reflected here is a specifically British phenomenon. As the British broadcaster Trevor Phillips remarked earlier this year, "the UK has absolutely no sense at all for the reality of racism. It has no sense for the way that its schools, its police produce a biased outcome. Most people in this country think the issue of race is entirely about whether individual people like each other".112 Conventional wisdom has it that the US, with its multitude of scholars and bureaucrats studying (for example) the structurally racist siting of polluting factories, or the structural biases of the judicial and penal systems, or the discriminatory effects of schooling, has a more sophisticated awareness of structural racism. As one US journalist visiting the UK recently put it, the two countries are different in that "America knows it's racist."113

Maybe so; but as Eliasoph reminds us, US civic culture is also structured in ways which systematically inhibit inquiry into the issue. The Columbia legal scholar Patricia J. Williams described a few years back the way in which, in the US, "race matters are resented and repressed in much the same way as matters of sex and scandal: the subject is considered a rude and transgressive one in mixed company".114 And anyone proposing to attribute (say) Clare Short's self-ignorance to her nationality might consult their own experience of US environmental debates of the last decade in considering whether this passage, written in 1965 by James Baldwin, is any less fresh 35 years later:

"Most white Americans are ... aware that the history they have fed themselves is mainly a lie, but they do not know how to release themselves from it, and they suffer enormously from the resulting personal incoherence. This incoherence is heard nowhere more plainly than in those stammering, terrified dialogues which white Americans sometimes entertain with the black conscience, the black man in America. The nature of this stammering can be reduced to a plea. Do not blame me. I was not there. I did not do it. My history has nothing to do with Europe or the slave trade. Anyway it was your chiefs who sold you to me. I was not present in the middle passage. I am not responsible for the textile mills of Manchester, or the cotton fields of Mississippi. Besides, consider how the English, too, suffered in those mills and in those awful cities! I also despise the governors of southern states and the sheriffs of southern counties, and I also want your child to have a decent education and rise as high as capabilities will permit. I have nothing against you, nothing! What have you got against me? What do you want? But on the same day, in another gathering and in the most private chamber of his heart always, the white American remains proud of that history for which he does not wish to pay, and from which, materially, he has benefited so much."115

In earlier papers I've argued that the intellectual aspect of the struggle against damaging development projects is not about whether what the experts say is true or false, but about, "so to speak, which genre of performance will prevail". In urging a more nuanced view of development's protagonists which avoids the facile assumption that they must either believe or not believe the falsehoods they express, I've described strategies of "straining performances in the development genre to breaking point while simultaneously helping to craft concurrent performances in other genres in which truth matters more".116 By proposing here what will again appear to many to be a "changing of the subject" -- this time in the ongoing conversation among many Westerners on the Southeast Asian environment -- I hope to indicate my support for attempts to help knit together the edges of what seems to me to be a frayed hole in the fabric consisting of the practices sanctioned by professional civility. Such reknittings of webs of belief/meaning (or, to use an alternative idiom, power/knowledge), are what W. V. O. Quine identified as inquiry, and are a continuing part of the political work of university intellectuals as well as social movements.

Notes and References

1 Yang Lien-Sheng, "Historical Notes on the Chinese World Order" in J. K. Fairbank, ed., The Chinese World Order: Traditional China's Foreign Relations, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1968, p.27.

2 David Campbell, "Apartheid Cartography: The Political Anthropology and Spatial Effects of International Diplomacy in Bosnia", Political Geography, 1999.

3 Kenan Malik, The Meaning of Race: Race, History and Culture in Western Society, Macmillan, London, 1996.

4 David Streckfuss, "The Mixed Colonial Legacy in Siam: Origins of Thai Racialist Thought, 1890-1910", in Laurie Sears, ed., Autonomous Histories, Particular Truths: Essays in Honor of John R. W. Smail, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Madison, 1993, pp.123-53; see also Thongchai Winichakul, "The Other Within: Ethnography and Travel Literature from Bangkok Metropolis to Its Periphery in Late 19th Century Siam", paper presented at the 5th International Thai Studies Conference, London, 4-10 July 1993.

5 Hjorleifur R. Jonsson, "Rhetorics and Relations: Tai States, Forests, and Upland Groups" in E. P. Durrenberger (ed.), State Power and Culture in Thailand, Yale Southeast Asia Studies Monograph 44, New Haven, 1996, pp.183-4.

6 Uraiwan Tan Kim Yong, "Ongkorn Sangkhom nai Rabob Chonprathaan Muang Faai lae' Kaan Radom Sapayakorn: Priap Thiap Rawaang Chumchon bon Thii Soong lae' Chumchon Phuen Raab nai Phaak Nuea khong Pratheet Thai", Sangkhomsaat (Chiang Mai University) 7, 1-2, 1984-5, pp.158-94.

7 For further examples see, e.g., Tuenjai Deetes, Mae Jan: Sai Nam Thii Phanplian, Thienwan, Bangkok, 1985 and Samruam Sing, "The Necklace" in Anderson, B. R. O'G. and Mendiones, R. (eds.), In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era, Duang Kamol, Bangkok, 1985, pp.247-59.

8 In September 1987, for instance, Thai troops rounded up hundreds of Akha from 13 villages and sent them across the border to Burma, burning houses and killing livestock to prevent their return. Many had long legally resided within Thailand's borders. See United Press International, 29 September 1987; C. A. Kammerer, "Of Labels and Laws: Thailand's Resettlement and Repatriation Policies", Cultural Survival Quarterly 12, 4, 1988, pp.7-12 and "Territorial Imperatives: Akha Ethnic Identity and Thailand's National Integration" in McKinnon, J. and Vienne, B. (eds.), Hill Tribes Today: Problems in Change, pp.259-302.

9 New Frontiers: Briefing on Tourism, Development and Environment Issues in the Mekong Subregion 6 (1), January-February 2000, p.7. See also Jonsson, p.183. For comparative materials from the US, see R. R. Higgins, "Race, Pollution and the Mastery of Nature", Environmental Ethics 16, 1994, pp.251-264.

10 Jonsson, p.184.

11 Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: The History of the Geo-Body of a Nation, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1994, p.170; Sanitsuda Ekachai, "Do Not Destroy the Ethnic Culture", Bangkok Post, 23 January 1997. Pairote Suwannakorn, a past Director-General of the country's Royal Forest Department, once told a reporter that plans to resettle hundreds of thousands of minority mountain-dwellers were nothing to be alarmed at since the latter were "not Thai". ("Mai pen rai khrap khaw mai chai khon thai.")

12 William Smalley, Linguistic Diversity and National Unity: Language Ecology in Thailand, University of Chicago, Chicago, 1994; "Thailand's Hierarchy of Multilingualism", Language Sciences, 10 (2), 1988, pp.243-261. Speaking Karen, Northern Thai and "Standard" (Central) Thai in the space of a few minutes on an urban street, or being Karen in behaviour in one context and Northern Thai in another, have not ordinarily been regarded, particularly by those on the lower end of the hierarchy, as signs of either deception, identity confusion or "hybridity". See also Deborah E. Tooker, "Identity Systems of Highland Burma: 'Belief', Akha Zang, and a Critique of Interiorized Notions of Ethno-Religious Identity", Man 27, 1992, pp.799-819. The history of "centered" (as opposed to bordered) notions of "nature" and "humanity" awaits its students.

13 The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources defined a national park in the 1970s as a large area "not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation". Cited in Marcus Colchester, "Salvaging Nature: Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas" in K. B. Ghimire and M. P. Pimbert, Social Change and Conservation, Earthscan, London, 1997, p.99.

14 Peter Melchett, interviewed in Against Nature, Channel 4 broadcast, UK, 7 December 1997.

15 John and Jean Comaroff (Ethnography and the Historical Imagination, Westview, Boulder, 1992, p.6) recommend self-ethnography for such tasks; I'll have to be content here with the blunt instruments of satire, potted history, and connect-the-dots political economy.

16 Conference Summary, "The Cost-Benefit Analysis Dilemma: Strategies and Alternatives", Institution for Social and Political Studies, Yale University, 8-10 October 1999, available from the author at larrylohmann@gn.apc.org.

17 John Barrell, The Dark Side of the Landscape, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1980.

18 "Gipsies", 1807.

19 Oliver Rackham, The History of the Countryside, Dent, London, 1989. "Forest" may have been derived from a Latin term of which it was difficult to distinguish the administrative and the topographical meanings -- foris, signifying a place which the monarch could place "outside" the jurisdiction of normal common or Roman law. See Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory, Fontana, London, 1996. There are interesting comparisons to be made with the Thai paa and thuean and the Sanskrit-Urdu-English jangala-jangal-jungle, as well as the French-Spanish-English sauvage-selvaje-sa(l)vage, meaning forest-dweller. See Michael Dove, "The Dialectical History of 'Jungle' in Pakistan: An Examination of the Relationship between Nature and Culture", Journal of Anthropological Research 48, 1992, pp.231-53; Philip Stott, "Mu'ang and Pa: Elite Views of Nature in a Changing Thailand" in Manas Chitkasem and Andrew Turton (eds.) Thai Constructions of Knowledge, University of London, London, 1991, pp.142-54; Philip Hirsch, Development Dilemmas in Rural Thailand, Oxford, 1990; Richard Davis, Muang Metaphysics, Pandora, Bangkok, 1984. Just as the ethnicity of their subjects was arguably not much of a worry for precolonial Southeast Asian kingdoms, nor Othello's blackness, as C. L. R. James argues, of great interest to Shakespeare's audiences, so "forests" and "parks" did not formerly need to bear a connotation of spaces unsullied by human presence.

20 Larry Lohmann, "Forests: Myths and Realities of Violent Conflicts" in Mohamed Suliman (ed.), Ecology, Politics and Violent Conflict, Zed, London, 1999; Roger Manning, Hunters and Poachers: A Social and Cultural History of Unlawful Hunting in England, 1485-1640. In Thailand no less than in India or Eastern Europe, the political and symbolic economy of hunting has been crucial to environmental politics, as witnessed by, for example, the scandal of Thai Army officers' helicopter expeditions into Thung Yai in the early 1970s and the role of (ex-) hunters in nature preservationism.

21 Sometimes such villages' resettlement sites have had the good fortune to become picturesque prospects themselves. Near where I live in Dorset, the village of Milton Abbas consists largely of a neat double row of attractive thatched buildings erected in the 19th century to house the denizens of a variegated collection of ramshackle cottages which were razed as unsightly obstructions to the local big house's park view. Milton Abbas exerts an irresistible attraction, I've noticed, for Japanese coach tours, no doubt because it is seen as a quintessential "quaint English village", which perhaps it is, though possibly not for the reasons tourists dwell on.

22 George Catlin, The Manner and Customs of the North American Indians, 1841.

23 Larry Lohmann, "Green Orientalism", The Ecologist 23, 6, 1993, pp.202-04. The influence of Green Orientalism can be seen not only in policies and ideologies of "enforced primitivism" (such as those which up until recently were followed in South Africa to preserve "the Bushman as fauna"), and the widespread assumption that anyone defending the rights of indigenous peoples to any valuable forests they may be occupying must ipso facto be assuming that they are "innocent ethnic peoples frozen in the mold of the past" (a common assumption among Thailand's conservationists and foresters) but also, to some extent, in the way indigenous peoples position themselves. See Tania Murray Li, "Articulating Indigenous Identity in Indonesia: Resource Politics and the Tribal Slot", Comparative Studies in Society and History 1999; Bruce Willems-Braun, "Buried Epistemologies: The Politics of Nature in (Post)colonial British Columbia", Annals of the Association of American Geographers 87, 1, 1997, pp.3-31; Larry Lohmann, "Visitors to the Commons: Approaching Thailand's 'Environmental' Movements from a Western Point of View" in Taylor, Bron Raymond, ed., Ecological Resistance Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995: 109-126; Colchester, op. cit. Yellowstone, of course, was an important stop on the itinerary of Thai and other Southeast Asian foresters invited to share in US forestry knowledge during what Ben Anderson calls the "American era".

24 Roderick P. Neumann, Imposing Wilderness: Struggles over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa, University of California, Berkeley, 1998.

25 Quoted in Jonathan S. Adams and Thomas O. MacShane, The Myth of Wild Africa: Conservation without Illusion, Norton, New York, 1992, p. xvi. A few years later, Africa was fictitiously described by no less a conservationist than the director general of UNESCO, Julian Huxley, as containing "the last accessible portions of the prehuman world's climax community". (Quoted in Neumann, op. cit.) Again, this was to overlook the existence of thousands of years of human culture in the places Huxley was talking about.10

26 See Kenny Matampash, "The Maasai of Kenya" in Davis, S.H. (ed.) Indigenous Views of Land and The Environment, World Bank Discussion Paper 188, Washington, 1993; Nancy J. Peluso, "Coercing Conservation: The Politics of State Resource Control" in Ken Conca (ed.), The State in Environmental Politics, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993, pp.46-70; Neumann, op. cit.

27 Pamela McElwee, "Ecology as Ideology: The Logic of Biodiversity in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam", paper presented at the conference on Displacement, Forced Settlement and Conservation, Oxford, 9-11 September 1999.

28 Christopher R. Duncan, "Resettlement and Natural Resources in Indonesia: A Case Study", paper presented at the conference on Displacement, Forced Settlement and Conservation, Oxford, 9-11 September 1999.

29 For related discussions see Larry Lohmann, "Missing the Point of Development Talk: Reflections for Activists", Corner House Briefing Paper No. 9, Dorset, August 1998 and "Mekong Dams in the Drama of Development", Watershed 3 (3), Mar./Jun. 1998, pp.211-234.

30 An analogy is with the use of literal mapping technologies to "bolster the legitimacy of 'customary' claims to resources". See Nancy Peluso, "Whose Woods Are These? Counter-Mapping Forest Territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia", Antipode 27, 4, 1995, pp.383-406 and Larry Lohmann, "No Rules of Engagement: Centralization and the Creative Politics of 'Environment' in Thailand" in Jonathan Rigg (ed.), Counting the Costs: Economic Growth and Environmental Change in Thailand, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 1995, pp.211-234.

31 Krom Song Serm Khunaphaap Sing Waet Lccm et al., Raayngaan Phon Kaan Wijay Rueang Khwaam Laak Laay Thaang Chiiwaphaap Lae' Rabob Niweet nay Kheet Paa Chum Chon Phaak Nuea Tawn Bon, Project for Ecological Recovery, Chiang Mai, 1998.

32 Gary Nabhan, D. House et al., "Conservation and Use of Rare Plants by Traditional Cultures of the US-Mexico Borderlands", in M. L. Oldfield and Janis Alcorn (eds.), Biodiversity: Culture, Conservation and Ecodevelopment, Westview, Boulder, 1991. In the region of Guinea studied by Melissa Leach and James Fairhead, forest islands have traditionally been seen by development and conservation professionals as the remnants of a process of forest contraction rather than what they are, the artifacts of a process of deliberate forest construction outward from cores of settlement. Again, the problem here was not the fact that research directions were based on an aesthetic choice. All science is grounded in such choices -- one must, after all, see the glass as either half-empty or half-full. The problem, rather, was the the particular aesthetic choice that was made. This choice ensured that science has until recently remained ignorant of the practices by which local villagers build up new forests. Discrimination against them has been both a result and a cause of this state of affairs. See Melissa Leach and James Fairhead, Misreading the African Landscape, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996.

33 Jane Caruthers, "Creating a National Park, 1910 to 1926", Journal of Southern African Studies 15 (2), 188-216. See also Michele D. Dominy, "The Alpine Landscape in Australian Mythologies of Ecology and Nation", in Barbara Ching and Gerald Creed, Knowing Your Place: Rural Identity and Cultural Hierarchy, Rougledge, New York, 1997, pp.237-65.

34 Benedict Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World, Verso, London, 1998. See also Ivan Illich's Raymond Williams-derived notion of "keywords" in Gender, Pantheon, New York, 1983.

35 Quoted in Neumann, Imposing Wilderness.

36 Peluso, op. cit., Duncan, op. cit., Colchester, op. cit.

37 "Conservation at What Cost? The Logic of Sedentarization, Resettlement and Displacement in Southeast Asia", paper presented at the conference on Displacement, Forced Settlement and Conservation, Oxford, 9-11 September 1999.

38 N. Morita, Vice-President of the Asian Development Bank, quoted in Tangwisutijit, N., "Relocation in Sight for Hill People", The Nation (Bangkok), 4 August 1996. The project referred to is entitled Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management in Remote Watersheds in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

39 The academic materials for the project of making the familiar human/nature map strange again, of course, extend far beyond what I've hinted at -- and far beyond what I can keep up with. More than a quarter of a century ago Raymond Williams was already expanding fruitfully on the theme that a "working country is hardly ever a landscape. The very idea of landscape implies separation and observation". See The City and the Country, Oxford University Press, New York, 1973, p.120; and for some new variations on this theme, Donna J. Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium.Female_Man_Meets_Oncomouse: Feminism and Technoscience, Routledge, London, 1997. More recently, Ramachandra Guha has noted that while the US tradition of Progressive Conservation "places society above ecology (nature must follow the dictates of man)", and its flip side Wilderness Thinking "ecology over society (man must follow the dictates of nature)", peasant perspectives which "embed ecology in society" can "transcend both these perspectives" ("Two Phases of American Environmentalism", in Frederique Apffel-Marglin and Stephen A. Marglin, Decolonizing Knowledge: From Development to Dialogue, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996, p.134). Williams's distancing of the "landscape" idea of nature, and Guha's of the society/ecology dichotomy, are examples of recurring scholarly attempts to highlight the social biases inherent in human/nature mapping and restore some of what it renders difficult to imagine. Still more recently, a raft of scholars working in anthropology and fire, forest and grassland and landscape history have investigated specific localities and regions to help erode the hegemony of the discriminatory idea that the best, the archetypal, the basic "nature" is merely what has escaped the use of human beings, and to attempt once again to correct chronic academic, bureaucratic and activist ignorance of the practices by which rural or forest peoples have long shaped what may seem to outsiders to be "untouched" ecosystems. See, e.g., the multi-volume series on fire history by Stephen J. Pyne; Leach and Fairhead, op. cit.; A. Gomez-Pompa and A. Kaus, "Taming the Wilderness Myth", Bioscience 42, 4, 1992, pp.271-9; David Arnold, The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture and European Expansion, Blackwell, London, 1996; Alston Chase, Playing God in Yellowstone: The Destruction of America's First National Park, Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, New York, 1987; Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn, The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon, HarperCollins, New York, 1990; William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England, Hill and Wang, New York, 1983; Nancy Langston, Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares: The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1995; Rackham, op. cit.; Schama, op. cit.; Richard Grove, Green Imperialism, Cambridge 1995; Darrell Posey's articles on the Amazon; Mike Davis, Ecology of Fear, Vintage, New York, 1998. Environmental historians have also helped trace the genealogies of protected areas and forest reserves in the colonial era and after. Finally, just as anti-racist scholars have criticized the stereotyping and fetishizing of ethnic groups, a growing number of biologists have criticized the stereotyping and fetishizing of "nature". Images of mathematical chaos and the Trickster, as well as new research which puts in better perspective the exceptional aspects of Northern European ecosystems and recent climatic history, have surfaced to undermine the still-encountered doctrine that nature is epitomized in stable "climax communities". A notion of "nature's resistance" to conservationist practices such as the exclusion of fire from Yellowstone or the Malibu coast is meanwhile taking hold alongside that of the resistance of indigenous groups to being "naturalized" into the landscape.

40 To take a few recent public examples of violence aimed at assimilating, or, more often, excluding "hilltribes": In February 1986, a programme to relocate "hill tribes" in six provinces in Northern Thailand was launched by the Third Army Command, the Ranger Command, the Border Patrol Police, the Suppression Division and the Royal Forestry Department under the banner of suppressing forest destruction, shifting cultivation and opium growing (Thai Rath, 22 February 1986). "Hilltribes" were portrayed on radio and TV and in newspapers as "wicked" and as a threat to the country. As the commander of the Third Army sternly put it, "those who destroy the nation are not the ones who illegally cut down 20 or 30 trees, but the hilltribes". The Deputy Director-General of the Royal Forestry Department opined that the solution to the "hilltribe problem" was to "sterilize them by force so that they cannot increase their numbers any further" (Siam Rath, 27 February 1987). In 1994, eight Ho Chinese, Lisu, Mien and Lahu communities were forcibly evicted from Doi Luang National Park and settled on forest reserve land in Lampang (Pinkaew Luangaramsri, "The Ambiguity of Watershed: The Politics of People and Conservation in Northern Thailand. A Case Study of the Chom Thong Conflict" in Marcus Colchester and Christian Erni (eds.), Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas in South and Southeast Asia, IWGIA Document No. 97, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen, 1999, pp.108-33). In March 1998, as part of his efforts to make a quick reputation as a forest-fire-fighter, Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob ordered a summary, semi-random roundup of 56 Paluang and other people on arson charges. (He was later embarrassed when it was pointed out that the two square kilometres of fires they had been charged with starting had occurred alongside an unauthorized forest road used for transporting illegal logs and built by associates of Newin's father-in-law, who is involved in rock-blasting in the area) (Bangkok Post, 16 April and 19 May 1998; Association of Academics for the Poor, Chiang Mai University, "Sathanakaan Fai Paa Uthayaan Haeng Chaat Doi Inthanon (Km. 33-34) lae' Kaan Jap Klum Chaaw Baan Paang Daeng (Palaung, Muser, Lisor lae' Khon Thai Phuen Raab) nai Koranii Chiang Dao", Chiang Mai, 1998). A few days later, forestry officials allegedly threatened to burn down a nearby village if its residents did not move out within three days, and in May destroyed mango trees and torched farm shelters in another settlement.

41 Inter-Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT) et al., "Reply to M. R. Smansanid", World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, Montevideo, July 1998; "Summary of Illegal Actions by the Chomthong Conservation Group and the Insecurity of Highland Communities in Doi Inthanond National Park Chiangmai Province, Thailand", Chiang Mai, 1998.

42 Pinkaew, op. cit., IMPECT, "Summary"; Ethnic Studies Network (ETHNET), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, "Information Package", 1998.

43 Pinkaew, op. cit.; IMPECT, op. cit.; ETHNET, op. cit.

44 ETHNET, op. cit.

45 Bulletins from ETHNET, May 1999.

46 McCoy, A. W., The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, Harper & Row, New York, 1972, pp.137-38.

47 K. Panakumnerd, interview in Watershed 4 (1) July-October 1998, p.22; Jonsson, op. cit.

48 Pinkaew, op. cit.

49 However, the Thai government did set up four camps (nikhom) in Northern Thailand as early as 1959-1967 to which Hmong, Lahu, Lisu, Akha and Mien communities were relocated to help bring them under government control. See Prasit Leepreecha "Ntoo xeeb: Cultural Revival on Forest Conservation of the Hmong in Thailand", University of Washington, Seattle, 1998, citing K. Buruspatana, Chao Khao, Prae Pitaya, Bangkok, 1985.

50 Waranoot Tungittiplakorn found that highlanders perceived far more inter-group hostility than did lowlanders in the controversy over Chom Thong conservationist fencing projects. See "Highland-Lowland Conflict over Natural Resources: A Case Study of Mae Soi, Chiang Mai, Thailand", M.S. Thesis, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, 1992, pp.51-52.

51 Philip Hirsch., "Seeking Culprits: Ethnicity and Resource Conflict," Watershed 3 (1), July-October 1997, p.27.

52 Nicholas Tapp, Sovereignty and Rebellion: The White Hmong of Northern Thailand, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989; Chuphinit Kesmanee, "The Poisoning Effect of a Lovers Triangle: Highlanders, Opium and Extension Crops, a Policy Overdue for Review", in McKinnon, J. and Vienne, B. (eds.), op. cit.; Pinkaew Luangaramsri, "On the Discourse of Hill Tribes", Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, 1997. For an update, see "Hmong Say They Are Victims of Injustice", Bangkok Post, 23 August 1998.

53 Prasit, op. cit. See also Cornelia Kammerer "Of Labels and Laws: Thailand's Resettlement and Repatriation Policies", Cultural Survival Quarterly 12, 4, 1988, pp.7-12 and R. G. Cooper, "The Tribal Minorities of Northern Thailand: Problems and Prospects" in Southeast Asian Affairs, Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 1979, pp.323-32.

54 Larry Lohmann, "Land, Power and Forest Colonization in Thailand," in Marcus Colchester, and Larry Lohmann, The Struggle for Land and the Fate of the Forests, Zed Books, London, 1993, p.216.

55 Pinkaew, "Ambiguity".

56 Statements of Waiying Thongbue and Komin Thoedphraiphanawon at the Consultation on Conservation and Conflict among Tribal Peoples, Lowlanders and the State in Northern Thailand, University of London, 2 October 1998; Pinkaew, op. cit.

57 Pongsak Techadhammo, Phuttasasana kap Kaan Anurak Paa Mai, Klum Phitak Chiwit Matuphuum, Chiang Mai, 1991.

58 Pinkaew, op. cit.

59 Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 December 1990; Kittisak Ruttanakrajangsri, personal communication.

60 Pinkaew Luangaramsri, "Rai, Rai Lu'an Loy, Rai Mun Wian and the Politics of 'Shifting Cultivation'", Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, 1998.

61 Cited in A. A. Eudey, "14 April 1986: Eviction Orders to the Hmong of Huai Yew Yee Village, Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand", in McKinnon, J. and Vienne, B., op. cit., p.256.

62 Originally used of royalty, this term is now employed colloquially to mean senior officials or bosses, as when a watershed conservation official recently told a Karen leader that the Karen should not practice swidden in the Mae Ning forest because "jao naay from outside will definitely love [this fertile forest] if they have a chance to come here ... The cutting of forest in this area would make a bad impression on the jao naay when he comes to the village". Pinkaew, "Rai".

63 ETHNET, op. cit.; Waiying Thongbue, "Lamdap Sathanakaan Khaw Tae Jing Koranii Kaan Kerd Fai Paa nai Kheet Uthayaan Haeng Chaat Doi Inthanon lae' Uthayaan Haeng Chaat Ob Luang", report for the International Alliance of Tribal and Indigenous Peoples of the Tropical Forests, Chiang Mai, 1998.

64 Pinkaew, "Ambiguity", op. cit. See also Waiying, op. cit. Association of Academics for the Poor, Chiang Mai University, "Sathanakaan".

65 For instance, in the late 1980s, some lowland National Reserve Forest land was released in order to set up "forest villages" (muu baan paa mai) for lowland villagers. The Royal Forest Department provided legal approval and skilled personnel, while funding came from the private Dhammanaat Foundation. Pinkaew, op. cit.

66 Smansanid Svasti, interview in Watershed 4, 1, July-October 1998, pp.10-13.

67 Smansanid, personal communication, August 1998. Failed resettlement schemes have been a major cause of social unrest in Thailand in the 1990s. Chom Thong highland-lowland relocation schemes, moreover, are criticized by many lowlanders concerned about land competition as well as highlanders. (Leepreecha, P., op. cit.). The proposed resettlement area in Chom Thong has reportedly been canvassed as a dump site for the Chiang Mai city's increasing volumes of garbage by the Provincial Administration Organization.

68 Testimony of Waiying Thongbue at the Consultation on Conservation and Conflict among Tribal Peoples, Lowlanders and the State in Northern Thailand, University of London, 2 October 1998.

69 Jonsson, H., op. cit. As Jonsson notes, uplanders become alien elements in this bounded and controlled nature defined by lowland Thai elites just as they are alien elements in a Thai cultural space. Ordinary Thai villagers are also arguably coming to occupy, in elite eyes, an increasingly dubious "liminal" position between "culture" (Bangkok) and "nature" (protected areas).

70 Dhammanaat Foundation, "Khrongkaan Anurak lae' Fuen Fuu Paa Lum Nam Mae Soi Mae Thim lae' Mae Pok Tambon Mae Soi Amphur Chom Thong Changwat Chiang Mai 2526-2540", Chiang Mai, n.d.

71 Dhammanaat Foundation brochure, n.d.

72 Testimony of Waiying Thongbue, op. cit. 68.

73 IMPECT et al., "Summary", op. cit.

74 Phujatkarn Raiduean, March 1994.

75 Pinkaew, "Ambiguity".

76 Ibid. See also T. Sae-Va, interview in Watershed 4, 1, July-October 1998, pp.14-16.

77 See, e.g., Ruth Levitas (ed.), Ideology of the New Right, Polity Press, London, 1987.

78 Pongsak Techadhammo, P., translated transcript of interview, 3 December 1991, Project for Ecological Recovery, Bangkok, emphasis added.

79 Supradit Kanwanich., "Agricultural War: The Case of the Drying Rivers" and "A Conflict High and Low", Bangkok Post, 20 July 1997; "The Source of Life is Poisoned", 27 July 1997.

80 Some idea of the importance of pickup trucks in indicating social status in rural Thailand is conveyed by the fact that, before the recent financial crash, this medium-sized country was the biggest market for such vehicles in the world outside the US. (It was also the second largest market for Mercedes-Benz automobiles and Johnnie Walker whisky.) Bello, W., Cunningham, S. and Li, K. P., Siamese Tragedy: Development and Disintegration in Modern Thailand, Zed Books, London, 1998, pp.5-6. For minority groups to be seen to be availing themselves of this symbolically-freighted commodity constitutes an implicit challenge to the ethnic hierarchy imagined by many lowlanders.

81 See, e.g., Donna Haraway, Me and Mine: Selected Essays of Bhikku Buddhadasa, Routledge, London, 1989.

82 The Thai neologism for "nature", thammachaat, invoked by priests and environmentalists alike, signifies "born of the dharma", or of truth, reality, natural law, the norm, or morality.

83 Buddhadasa, "A Dictatorial Dhammic Socialism" in Swearer, D. K. (ed.), Me and Mine: Selected Essays of Bhikku Buddhadasa, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1989, pp.182-193.

84 Smansanid, interview, op. cit.

85 Pongsak, interview, op. cit. 60

86 Ibid. The "natural law" motif is repeated in a secular key by mom rachawong Smansanid, who argues that environmental politics in Chom Thong has been polarized because non-governmental organizations and academics "don't understand the importance and the function of upper watershed forests ... [I]f everyone can appreciate that natural law, there should be little difficulty in solving our problems in resource management and land use". Interview, op. cit., p.13.

87 Streckfuss, op. cit., pp.125-9.

88 B. Kingsbury, "'Indigenous Peoples' in International Law: A Constructivist Approach to the Asian Controversy", American Journal of International Law, July 1998 and Laura Rival, R. Wilson, and Stephen Corry, contributions to the Panel Discussion on Indigenous Human Rights, Royal Anthropological Institute - Survival International, Museum of Mankind, London, 12 November 1997.

89 Stuart Hall, "Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities" in King, A. D. (ed.) Culture, Globalization and the World System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991, p.55.

90 As forester Somsak Sukwong of Kasetsart University has recently observed, "lowland forests, especially those along streams and rivers, had tremendous ecological functions in maintaining and transpiring water" and constituted watershed "equally significant" to that of the highlands (cited in Pinkaew, op. cit.; see also McElwee, op. cit.).

91 Donald Alford, "Streamflow and Sediment Transport from Mountain Watersheds of the Chao Phraya Basin, Northern Thailand: A Reconnaissance Study", Mountain Research and Development 12, 3, 1992, pp.257-268; McKinnon, J., "Domestication or Development?", in Ken Kampe and D. McCaskill (eds.), Development or Domestication?, Silkworm Books, Chiangmai, 1997.

92 Timothy Forsyth, "The Mu'ang and the Mountain: Preceptions of Environmental Degradation in Upland Thailand", South East Asia Research 183, 1995, pp.169-91.

93 Marcus Colchester, field notes of trip to Chom Thong, April 1999.

94 Smansanid, personal communication, August 1998.

95 Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 December 1990.

96 Dhammanaat Foundation representatives consistently deny the existence of highland movements opposing resettlement, attributing any dissatisfaction to manipulation of a passive populace by outside intellectuals. "All the hilltribes I've met want to come down," contends mom rachawong Smansanid, a claim repeated by British environmentalists to the face of minority group representatives who came to London in 1998 to tell them otherwise. The claim is repeated in the headline of a 1997 English-language Dhammanaat newsletter aimed at an international audience: "The Hmong want to come down!" (Sarn Dhammanaat 6, May 1997, p.1). It will perhaps come as no surprise that the foundation has also hotly denied that ethnic discrimination exists in Thailand. In Chom Thong "it is a question of watersharing, not racial discrimination", one statement reads. "The complaint of discrimination ... has never been raised." Indeed, according to a British Natural History Museum botanist with long research experience in north Thailand, and active in support of resettlement in Chom Thong, "Thai people", far from being discriminatory, are rather too tolerant of "outsiders" such as "hilltribes".

97 Suchira Prayoonpitak, for example, accuses minority groups of deceitfully using "various tactics to exploit watershed forests without being punished". For instance, she claims, instead of openly cutting down a tree they will "remove the bark of a tree and leave it to die" so that it can be destroyed the following year, and also encroach on forests from behind the trails or observation points of national forest reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Supradit, op. cit.

98 Anan Ganjanapan, "Resource Conflict in Northern Thailand", Mountain Research and Development 18, 1, 1998, pp.57-68. In fact, lowland Thai were the main swiddeners in many local areas for centuries. IMPECT et al., "Reply", op. cit.

99 Willems-Braun, "Buried Epistemologies".

100 See, for instance, Krisadawan Hongladarom, "Managing Our Ethnic Diversity," Bangkok Post, 30 November 1999; Yindee Lertcharoenchok, "Media Fans Hatred Against Tribal Groups", 3 September 1999, The Nation (Bangkok); and the discussion surrounding the best-selling Jek Thap Lao.

101 Willems-Braun, op. cit.

102 Thus nature preservationism in Thailand, as elsewhere, consistently portrays its critics as holding the view that mountain peoples in Chom Thong are "innocent ethnic peoples practising their timeless traditions", "living in ecological harmony, frozen in the mould of the past". Letter from Dhammanaat Foundation staff member, April 1998.

103 Watershed Protection Group (Dhammanaat Foundation and 21 other conservation organizations and academic associations), statement presented to the Consultation on Conservation and Conflict among Tribal Peoples, Lowlanders and the State in Northern Thailand, University of London, 2 October 1998, emphasis added.

104 Pinkaew, "Ambiguity".

105 Susan Wright, "The Politicization of 'Culture'", Anthropology Today 14, 1, February 1998, p.10.

106 The phrase "Hmong cabbages", it may be necessary to emphasize, does not refer to a particular plant variety (as in "Chinese plums") -- the seed used is of standard commercial varieties marketed by multinational corporations -- nor to the place where the cabbages are grown (as in "North American wheat"). Rather, the phrase has a purely racial function. In even slyer forms of racist speech, predicates themselves may be dropped, with the noun alone acting as a synecdoche expressing both racial characteristics and and a sense of their importance. Thus just as "corruption" often connotes "Third World corruption", and "Aid for Dependent Children recipients" often means "lazy, black AFDC recipients", so "cabbages", when uttered in a certain tone of voice when discussing Chom Thong, often stands in for "Hmong cabbages". The obvious international historical parallel to "Hmong cabbages" is, of course, "Jewish bankers". Anti-Semitism has been strong in Thailand at least since The Merchant of Venice was translated into Thai; judging by Western conservationists' use of "Hmong cabbages", lowland Southeast Asian anti-Hmong racism looks to be no less transferrable to the UK and the rest of Europe.

107 In 1993, lowland and highland groups marched together to protest a proposed expansion of protected areas. Soon afterwards the Northern Farmers Network (NFN) was established to foster communication between 107 potentially-affected villages in seven northern Thai provinces (populated by five ethnic groups including lowland Thai) and policymakers. The central aim of the Network was to stop rights violations entailed by resettlement and to demand recognition of community forest stewardship. With support from NFN, a Community Forest Bill was drafted by 1994. In April 1995, 2,000 hill people demonstrated against a Forestry Department resettlement scheme (The Nation, 29 April 1995); persuading the then Agriculture Minister to pledge to reconsider it and to compensate families already relocated. Mountain dwellers fighting relocation also made their views heard during the large 99-day demonstrations of the Assembly of the Poor outside Government House in Bangkok, and influenced the cabinet resolutions in April 1997 which recognized the rights of many communities living in protected areas. After the resolutions were rescinded in 1998, an Ethnic Peoples Assembly held protest rallies in Chiang Mai. On 30 July a protest letter was sent to the government bearing the signatures of representatives of seven ethnic groups. During the past decade, in addition, many minority-staffed voluntary groups critical of resettlement have grown up.

108 For example, a Thai-language petition referred to by British Dhammanaat supporters at a meeting in London in 1998 purporting to be signed by minority villagers agreeing to relocation turned out, on examination by the Thai speakers present, to be from landless villagers from a district outside Chom Thong who were requesting land. Confronted with the fact that the ethnic minority leaders present also clearly indicated their opposition to relocation, one Dhammanaat supporter was reduced to pointing to a photograph of a politely-smiling Hmong village leader visiting the resettlement site being prepared by the foundation as evidence of minority acquiescence in relocation. This prompted a Thai observer to joke privately that "it looks like we'll have to warn our friends not to smile in any picture taken by Dhammanaat for fear it will be misinterpreted."

109 Nina Eliasoph, "'Everyday Racism' in a Culture of Political Avoidance: Civil Society, Speech and Taboo", Social Problems 46 (4), November 1999, pp.479-502 has helped me articulate these issues.

110 Ibid.

111 There are many exceptions. See, for instance, Adams and MacShane, Myth of Wild Africa, or Ghimire and Pimbert, Social Change. But the everyday level of work of many large environmental organizations tends to follow a different direction.

112 Tara Mack, "The US Isn't Great on Race. Are You Brits Any Better?", The Observer (London), 20 February 2000.

113 Ibid.

114 Patricia J. Williams, Seeing a Colour-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race, Virago, London, 1997, p.6.

115 James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction 1948-1985, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1985, p.411.

116 Lohmann, "Missing the Point" and "Mekong Dams".

http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/what-nature-does-nature-have-r...