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Rubber and the Making of VietnamAn Ecological History, 1897-1975$
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Michitake Aso

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469637150

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469637150.001.0001

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Cultivating Science

Cultivating Science

(p.59) Chapter Two Cultivating Science
Rubber and the Making of Vietnam

Michitake Aso

University of North Carolina Press

Plantation regimes encouraged knowledge production about plant and disease ecologies and the relationship among organisms and their environments more generally. More detailed knowledge about newly introduced plant species, plant and human diseases, and their shared environments was a key ingredient of better, more profitable management of rubber plantations. Chapter 2 explores the process by which agronomy came to support the burgeoning rubber industry after rubber arrived in Indochina in 1897. The French colonial government was not the first to encourage agricultural improvement on the Indochinese peninsula, but the qualitative and quantitative investment that it made in these projects set it apart from previous states. Encouraged by the success of their British and Dutch neighbors, French planters envisioned turning biologically and culturally diverse landscapes into neat rows of hevea. Plantation agriculture also played an important role in defining the political and intellectual scope of the science of ecology in Indochina, encouraging agronomists to direct their energies toward transnational businesses and the colonial project. The process of integrating the efforts of scientists, officials, and planters was not always smooth, however, and this chapter highlights the conflicts and tensions generated by a political economy of plantation agriculture.

Keywords:   agricultural science, civilizing mission, ecology, French colonialism, Indochina, knowledge production, planters, rubber plantations

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