Research Expertise and Interest
environmental policy, forestry, environmental studies, resource management and policy, rural development, environmental sociology, geopolitics of resource control, political ecology
My students and I conduct research on the social processes that affect the management of land-based and coastal resources. My work explores various dimensions of resource access, use, and control, while contrasting local, national, and international influences on management structures and processes. I ground my analyses of contemporary resource management policy and practice in local and regional histories. I am particularly interested in how people who identify with different and multiple social groups (e.g., by ethnicity, class, gender, age, or citizenship) and government and non-government agencies define, make claims upon, contest, and attempt to manage natural resources.p>
Current Projects, , Property, Resources, and the Globalization of Legal Systems. In this comparative study of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, my colleague at York University, Peter Vandergeest, and I are looking at the political economic influences on the formation of forest and land law during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We are focusing particularly on ways that customary rights and practices were integrated into or ignored in the subsequent laws, and whether changes in these laws have changed people's forest practices. Social and Environmental Change in Borneo. I have been conducting fieldwork in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo since 1990, returning annually (approximately) to the same villages in West Kalimantan (Indonesia) and recently expanding to a village of similar ethnic composition on the Sarawak [Malaysia] side. By using oral histories, contemporary accounts and observations, and archival documents from the 19th and 20th centuries, I have been studying the production and transformation of anthropogenic forests in Borneo. Violence and the Rainforest. Communal violence broke out in the mid and late 1990s in those areas of West Kalimantan where I had been doing ethnographic and historical research. In order to understand the origins and forms of this violence I began a project to look at the regional, local, and national politics of resource control and militarization in the province since World War Two.