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* False Forest History, Complicit Social Analysis

* False Forest History, Complicit Social Analysis

Rethinking Some West African Environmental Narratives

(p.14) 2 * False Forest History, Complicit Social Analysis
The Social Lives of Forests
James FairheadMelissa Leach
University of Chicago Press

This chapter, first printed in 1995, explores rapid deforestation in Guinea, West Africa, where policy has been guided by a narrative concerning population growth and the breakdown of past authority and community organization that once maintained “original” forest vegetation. The chapter explores two cases in which vegetation history sharply contradicts the deforestation analysis and thus exposes the assumptions in its supporting social narrative, based on assumptions having more to do with Western imagination than African realities. The chapter forwards more appropriate assumptions at the regional level and for each case to better explain demonstrable vegetation change and provide more appropriate policy guidelines. The production of history serves many ends, and social scientists have been complicit in producing a view of current history as one of increasing detachment from a harmonious past. Treating this past as the template for the resolution of today's tensions, they have imagined links between social and environmental conditions in ways that inform policies that now marginalize inhabitants from what little resource control they have.

Keywords:   West Africa, Guinea, forest history, deforestation, development policy, colonialism

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