The saw and the seed [electronic resource] : Japanese forestry in colonial Korea, 1895-1945
- David Abraham Fedman.
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- 1 online resource.
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- This dissertation examines Japanese efforts to understand, rehabilitate, exploit, modernize, and showcase Korea's forests during the period of colonial rule (1910-1945). As a source of natural resources, a space of habitation, and a repository of rural traditions, Korea's woodlands formed a dynamic and highly contentious site of colonial governance. And yet, save for Korean- and Japanese-language studies on forestry policy, Korea's mountains and forests, which comprise more than 70 percent of the peninsula, remain a historiographical hinterland. Building on the growing body of comparative literature on the tangled roots of colonialism, scientific forestry, and conservationism, I argue that the forestry enterprise in colonial Korea was as concerned with the seed as it was with the saw: it placed afforestation and forest conservation at the heart of the colonial project to reform the Korean landscape and the ecological sensibilities of its inhabitants. Driven by utilitarian concerns about resource scarcity, a growing empire-wide demand for Korea's forest products, and fears of cascading environmental degradation, Japanese foresters set out in Korea to reclaim a peninsula routinely described as "a land of bald mountains and red earth." But forest reclamation in Korea was far from benevolent or benign: it siphoned off forestland to Japanese corporations and capitalists, cut off local communities from woodlands that had long sustained them, and placed vast tracts of commercially viable forests (especially those in the Yalu and Tumen River basins) under state control. Afforestation, in other words, was a process rife with conflict and fraught with contradiction. By chronicling the vicissitudes of this intensive, contested, and largely forgotten forestry project, I offer a case study in the promise and perils of natural resource management as it took shape in Japan's empire. Three principle lines of inquiry sustain my analysis. First, by surveying how, where, and when Korea's forests (and the range of resources therein) were utilized during the colonial period, I examine the materiality of modernization and the ecological implications of colonial rule. Second, through an examination of the mechanics and implementation of forestry policy, I map the contours of the politics of sustainability: a term that connotes the often-conflicting interests inherent to forest management and the myriad forces shaping forestry reforms (including bureaucratic conflict, geopolitics, peasant protest, and global markets). Third, by drawing attention to the interpenetration of forestry and everyday life, I explore the emergence in Korea of colonial ecological modernity: a concept that highlights how colonial forestry was not simply a process of modernization, but a far reaching and contested public campaign that touched the lives, values, and sensory experiences of residents across the peninsula.
- Publication date
- Submitted to the Department of History.
- Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2015.
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