Planting Politics: Pastoralists and French Environmental Administration in the Nineteenth-Century Mediterranean
Williams, Andrea Elizabeth
McNeill, John R.
This study uses the lens of forest administration to examine the transformation of Mediterranean pastoralism over the course of the nineteenth century. Drawing extensively on archival research, it focuses on case studies in Provence, southwestern Anatolia, and northern Algeria. For thousands of years, mobile pastoralists, agriculturalists, and forests coexisted in the Mediterranean region. In the nineteenth century, French forestry became a global model for scientific forest management. Its influence extended across the Mediterranean into French colonial Algeria and Anatolia, where France established a forestry mission in collaboration with the Ottoman state. The appearance, implementation, and international spread of French scientific forestry coincided with the retreat and marginalization of Mediterranean mobile pastoralists, both within and beyond the borders of France.These two developments exhibit striking and underappreciated connections. First, concerns over Mediterranean pastoralism were central to the formulation of French scientific forestry. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the French intellectual elite promoted environmental as well as socio-political justifications for opposing pastoralism, and Mediterranean mobile pastoralism in particular. French foresters led the way in these accusations. Their training and experience taught them to champion forests and vilify pastoralists. Yet the legislation and practices of the nineteenth-century French forest regime were in many ways harmful to both. Secondly, the vehicle of scientific forestry provided moral justification for sedentarization efforts in hard and soft colonial contexts. From the French perspective, Ottoman sedentarization efforts in the nineteenth century supported the idea of progress, environmental conservation, and the mission civilisatrice. In Algeria, French colonists used claims of environmental destruction to portray nomadic pastoralists as less culturally advanced than settled agriculturalists. This narrative motivated efforts to sedentarize, and thereby civilize, indigenous tribes. Even within continental France, scientific forestry helped the central government to reign in its periphery by restricting the practice of mobile pastoralism in Provence. Finally, this study reveals the active roles that Mediterranean pastoralists played in the application and evolution of French scientific forestry. Over the course of the nineteenth century, they fought forest legislation in a variety of ways, forcing foresters to compromise and temper their goals. The relationship between French forestry and pastoralism prompted major changes in both forest administration and the Mediterranean pastoral industry.The appearance of common themes and even characters in seemingly disparate parts of the Mediterranean affirms the value of a transnational approach to this subject, and indeed, its significance extends beyond Provence, Algeria, and Anatolia. It is representative of the nineteenth-century evolution of agro-sylvo-pastoral societies throughout the Mediterranean region. It is also a global story, illuminating the connections and conflicts between subaltern groups and the state. This dissertation presents new perspectives on the relationship among politics, societies, and the environment around the Mediterranean and around the world.
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