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The Social Lives of ForestsPast, Present, and Future of Woodland Resurgence$
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Susanna B. Hecht, Kathleen D. Morrison, and Christine Padoch

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226322667

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226024134.001.0001

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* A Forest for My Kingdom? “Forest Rent” and the Politics of History in Asante (Ghana)

* A Forest for My Kingdom? “Forest Rent” and the Politics of History in Asante (Ghana)

(p.279) 21 * A Forest for My Kingdom? “Forest Rent” and the Politics of History in Asante (Ghana)
The Social Lives of Forests

Sara Berry

University of Chicago Press

This chapter presents a case study in Asante exploring the tension over land and the place of “traditional authority” in contemporary social life and land use, as well as the shifting power dynamic between centralizing states and decentralized chiefly power. Reinforced during the colonial era and partially dismantled as part of an attempt by Ghana's first president to undo the colonial legacy, chiefly influence has re-emerged more recently when debates over the status and future of Asante's shrinking forests intersected with the neoliberal agenda. Plans for sustainable development, including forest recovery, often rest on imaginaries of bygone forests and implicit ideas about the relevance of knowledge about the past for present and future practice. Over the course of the 20th century, the social life of Asante forests reflected not only the power of market forces to remake natural environments, but also the ways in which market transactions, political contests and bureaucratic practices intersect with historical imagination. By raising the stakes in making claims of “original ownership,” recent efforts to rehabilitate Ghana's forests by privatizing them run the risk of increasing opportunities for rent-seeking and social exclusion, at the expense of equitable access and sustainable management.

Keywords:   Centralizing states, decentralized power, chiefly authority, Ghana, Asante, Cacao, tropical timbers, deforestation, forest rent, tenurial conflict

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