Forest and Labor in Madagascar

Forest and Labor in Madagascar

From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere
Genese Marie Sodikoff
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/17/2012
Format: Paperback 16 b&w, 1 table, 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-00577-9
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Protecting the unique plants and animals that live on Madagascar while fueling economic growth has been a priority for the Malagasy state, international donors, and conservation NGOs since the late 1980s. Forest and Labor in Madagascar shows how poor rural workers who must make a living from the forest balance their needs with the desire of the state to earn foreign revenue from ecotourism and forest-based enterprises. Genese Marie Sodikoff examines how the appreciation and protection of Madagascar’s biodiversity depend on manual labor. She exposes the moral dilemmas workers face as both conservation representatives and peasant farmers by pointing to the hidden costs of ecological conservation.

Author Bio

Genese Marie Sodikoff is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Rutgers University, Newark. She is editor of The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death (IUP, 2011).


“Forest and Labor in Madagascar shows how poor rural workers who must make a living from the forest balance their needs with the desire of the state to earn foreign revenue from ecotourism and forest-based enterprises.”

“An important and lively contribution to the study of 'green neoliberalism.' An obvious choice for undergraduate teaching on ecology, rights, international political economy, development, and a host of other topics.”
 — David Graeber, University of London

“Brings a whole new angle and nuance to the crucial debates over conservation and development. Applicable not just to lush, humid eastern Madagascar, but all around the globe.”
 — Christian Kull, Monash University

“Genese Marie Sodikoff takes us deep into the underbelly of conservation in one of the world's biodiversity "hot-spots." It is a world of timber barons, logging gangs, corrupt state functionaries, international conservation experts, worker-peasants, and poachers. She paints eastern Madagascar as a frontier of dispossession, exploitation, and violence. The plundering of the Mananara protected area is seen, in a brilliantly original way, from the subaltern vantage point of forest workers and conservation labor. Forest and Labor places present day conservation on the larger canvas of a century of forest-based social relations of labor that have entered into the making of what Sodikoff calls neoliberal conservation. It is a magnificently rich historical and ethnographic accounting of what passes as the making of global biosphere reserves. A tour de force.”
 — Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley

“Clearly organized and wonderfully written, [this book] provides invaluable insights on how frontline conservation workers shape (or can’t) and fit within (or don’t) the convoluted workings of global conservation practice.”
 — Intl Jrnl African Historical Studies

“Through rich and thick ethnographic description, Forest and Labor in Madagascar delivers what its title promises: providing the reader with a historically informed and detailed overview of the relations between forest conservation and labour dynamics on the Malagasy Island. . . . [F]or those interested in a solid, rich, and detailed ethnography of socio-environmental change and those interested in the politics of nature and broader labour issues in Madagascar, this is an excellent read.”
 — Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Forest and Labor in Madagascar is a pertinent and well-timed contribution to the growing literature on green neo-liberalism and its consequences at a time when the term 'salvage frontier' is becoming applicable to ever-greater swathes of this planet. ”
 — Journal of Modern African Studies

“[Sodikoff] takes her readers on a wonderful tour along the underbelly of conservation work in order to give them a clear understanding of how labour plays out in a political economy ruled mainly by conservation stakeholders. ”
 — Africa

“Throughout the book, it is clear that Sodikoff has both a great knowledge of and a deep respect for the people and the environments of Madagascar. The result is a humane and approachable ethnography that would connect with both undergraduate and graduate students. ”
 — American Ethnologist

“Those interested in conservation, tropical rainforest ecology, international political economy, and sustainable development will find Forest and Labor in Madagascar an insightful case study. ”
 — Choice

“Forest and Labor in Madagascar is ethnographically rich, and anthropologists working in the developing South will recognize much that it covers.”
 — American Anthropologist

“Forest and Labor in Madagascar . . . is a worthwhile contribution to [the] growing body of scholarship on the social ramifications of conservation efforts.”
 — Anthropology of Work Review

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Table of Contents

A Word on the Orthography and Pronunciation
1. Geographies of Borrowed Time
2. Overland on Foot, Aloft: An Anatomy of the Social Structure
3. Land and Languor: On What Makes Good Work
4. Toward a New Nature: Rank and Value in Conservation Bureaucracy
5. Contracting Space: Making Deals in a Global Hot Spot
6. How the Dead Matter: The Production of Heritage
7. Cooked Rice Wages: Internal Contradiction and Subjective Experience
Epilogue: Workers of the Vanishing World
Glossary of Malagasy Words

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