Anthropology Faculty Publications
From Spirit Forest to Rubber Plantation: The Accelerating Disaster of “Development” in CambodiaDespite the rise of Cambodia’s GDP and other development indicators, continuing extreme poverty combined with very rapid conversion of traditional subsistence lands, forests, and waters into land concessions to national and transnational companies is leading to intensified land insecurity issues and other human rights problems that may destabilize the country. An elite sector of Cambodian society comprised of the heads of state, business, and the military is implicated as the central cause of ongoing poverty and land loss. This paper outlines the problematic nature of the concession processes that began in the post-conflict era and continue today, and adapts Roy Rappaport’s concepts of cognized/operational environments within a political and historical framework for analyzing the strategies of these elites, and compares their cognized environments with those of indigenous Kuy peoples whose lands are threatened by elite practice, and suggests that the highmodern discourses of development adhered to by the elites are based on ultimate sacred postulates just as much as the explicitly religious discourses of traditional Kuy peoples.
Spirits of the Forest: Cambodia’s Kuy People Practice Spirit-based ConservationKuy theories of environment and development suggest a religiously embedded ecology that has sustained a robust biodiversity and viable habitat over long periods of time. In varying extents, their theories are engaged by other Indigenous Peoples throughout the uplands of Southeast Asia, who have been noted for their state-evasive, anarchic proclivities. It is a human adaptation that has until recently proven to be relatively successful as an alternative response to the multiple lowland state formations that have developed over the last 1,000 years.