Symposium – “The Political Forest in the Era of Green Neoliberalism”

Jennifer A. Devine (Texas State University; devine@txstate.edu) and Jenny A. Baca (Environmental Incentives; jbaca@enviroincentives.com)

Forthcoming in Antipode 52(4) this July, and available online now, “The Political Forest in the Era of Green Neoliberalism” is a collection of eight articles that explores how neoliberal capitalism, sustainable development, and biodiversity conservation have remade forests as political-ecological entities. The symposium was organized by Jennifer Devine and Jenny Baca and includes contributions from Catherine Corson, Kiran Asher, Martin Lucas and Nancy Peluso, Ester Marijnen and Judith Verweijen, Jennifer Devine, David Wrathall, Nate Currit, Beth Tellman and Yunuen Reygadas Langarica, Tim Forsyth, and Jenny Goldstein. It closes with an Afterword by Nancy Peluso and Peter Vandergeest.

This collection builds on Peluso and Vandergeest’s theorization of “the political forest” elaborated through 30 years of collaborative research in Southeast Asia. In 2015, they identified an understudied “fourth moment” in political forestry, characterized by the entry of non-state actors into forest management and global conservation imperatives. The symposium argues that transformations in global ecologies and governance driven by “green neoliberalism” have reworked the rationalities and technologies of forestry, as well as the moral, scientific, and territorial claims they enable.

The papers explore how contested practices of territorialization, governance, knowledge production and subject formation in contemporary political forests are remaking socio-natures in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia, Thailand, Madagascar, and Singapore. In doing so, they illustrate how the analytic and comparative methodology of the “political forest” remains central to identifying ways of achieving more environmentally and socially just forestry futures.

The Afterword by Peluso and Vandergeest provides a useful guide for students and scholars to engage with this analytical framework. They describe the intellectual and empirical contexts shaping their thinking, fieldwork, and methodology, and reveal the processes and relationships through which they learned to see and write the political forest. Their piece offers new reflections on forest materialities, the limits of green neoliberalism, and the ways violence (re)produces political forests in ever-evolving ways.