Rubber trees motivated the utilization, and construction, of imperial and national networks of knowledge production that linked French Indochina to France and to other colonial territories around the world. This effect placed rubber at the heart of efforts to discipline the tropics. Chapter 1 examines the introduction of hevea brasiliensis to Indochinese environments during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a process that involved laws marking the physical and intellectual boundaries between forests and plantation agriculture. It begins with a discussion of the southeast region of Vietnam and the study of nature in Indochina during the nineteenth century. New understandings of human and nonhuman natures enabled the production of commodities such as rubber, and rubber production for global consumption in turn helped reformulate the coproduction of human and nonhuman natures in local places. The chapter lays down a baseline for evaluating later transformations in environment and health as plantation agriculture replaced biological diverse habitats with much simpler ecologies.
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