On Monday, 29 March 2021, at 10:00 CET the Greenhouse environmental humanities book talk was joined by Jonathan Padwe, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa, to discuss his book Disturbed Forest, Fragmented Memories: Jarai and Other Lives in the Cambodian Highlands (University of Washington Press, 2020).

In the hill country of northeast Cambodia, just a few kilometers from the Vietnam border, sits the village of Tang Kadon. This community of hill rice farmers of the Jarai ethnic minority group survived aerial bombardment and the American invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, only to find themselves relocated to the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge regime. Now back in their homeland, they have reestablished agriculture, seed by seed.

Disturbed Forests, Fragmented Memories tells the story of violence and dispossession in the highlands from the perspective of the land itself. Weaving rich ethnography with the history of the Jarai and their treatment at the hands of outsiders, Jonathan Padwe narrates the highlanders’ successful efforts to rebuild their complex, highly diverse agricultural system after a decades-long interruption. Focusing on the ecological dimensions of social change and dispossession from the precolonial slave trade to the present moment of land grabs along a rapidly transforming resource frontier, Padwe shows how the past lives on in the land.

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