Forests, as physical entities, have received considerable scholarly attention in political studies of Asia and beyond. Much less notice has been paid to the significance of forests as symbols that enable commentary on identity, aspirations, and authority. Natural Potency and Political Power: Forests and State Authority in Contemporary Laos, by Sarinda Singh, is an innovative exploration of the social and political importance of forests in contemporary Laos. It challenges common views of the rural countryside as isolated and disconnected from national social debates and politics under an authoritarian regime. The work offers instead a novel understanding of local perspectives under authoritarianism, demonstrating that Lao people make implicit political statements in their commentary on forests and wildlife; and showing that, in addition to being vital material resources, forests (and their natural potency) are linked in the minds of many Lao to the social and political power of the state.
Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, & Memory
January 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3571-2 / $45.00 (CLOTH)