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* The Fate of the Branded Forest

* The Fate of the Branded Forest

Science, Violence, and Seduction in the World of Teak

(p.220) 16 * The Fate of the Branded Forest
The Social Lives of Forests
Raymond L. Bryant
University of Chicago Press

“Branding” has long affected the fate of forests, historically functioning as a means to: (1) mark ownership of a product, thereby providing the seller some guarantee of possession; (2) inform discrimination, as buyers could readily link product to producer; and (3) identify “quality.” Branding is an essential ingredient in market elaboration and romanticization of the wealth of nature, drawing on discourses of beauty, purity, and innocence. This chapter provides insight into the branding phenomenon through analysis of teak, a stylish consumer item within the British empire and beyond. In Burma, as elsewhere, inter-linked processes of brand control entailed generation of forest maps, resource inventories, and population censuses that were the basis for draconian restrictions on popular access to forest products. These, in turn, prompted popular resistance of many kinds, with teak economies financing insurgencies and military regimes. If this chapter serves to illustrate the dark side of branding, it remains to be seen whether this multidimensional phenomenon can be a force for good in an era of growing social and ecological disruption. The full implications of branding, including the ways in which it marks both people and nature in the modern era, remains critically understudied.

Keywords:   Environmental history, British Empire, Teak, forest reserves, violent environments, marketing, brands, Burma, institutional control, insurgency

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