“VALUING THE TROPICS”: DISCOURSES OF DEVELOPMENT IN THE FARM AND FOREST SECTORS OF FRENCH INDOCHINA, circa 1900–40
The paper examines how land and forest management policies were elaborated in French Indochina circa 1900–40. It places their development in the context of a scientific and economic discourse about the value of land and forest resources, the most appropriate ways in which they might be exploited and the relationship between colonial science and indigenous knowledge. By focusing on debates and laws relating to the development of small-scale and plantation farming systems (Land Code legislations) and forest management and exploitation (Forest Code legislations) the paper seeks to ground arguments about Western conceptions of the “tropics” within a discussion of national policy development and impacts. Focusing primarily on Cochinchina and Annam (southern and central Vietnam) and drawing on materials from French archives, the paper shows how changes in both attitudes and legislation have had lasting consequences on systems of property rights in forest management and on the place and status of indigenous peoples in Indochina.