David FedmanDec 22, 2020
Seeds of Control
Japan’s Empire of Forestry in Colonial Korea
University of Washington Press 2020
David Fedman's Seeds of Control: Seeds of Control: Japan’s Empire of Forestry in Colonial Korea (University of Washington Press, 2020) is hard to categorize. In a good way. Put simply, it is a broad but sharp look at the history of Japanese forest management in the Korean peninsula, 1910-1945. In this sense, Fedman’s book is an environmental history, to be sure, but also a material history of empire, science, and industry. It is a history of Japan and Korea, but also of transnational networks of knowledge and power. In other words, Seeds of Control is positioned at the intersection of environmental, imperial, and material histories, but it also contributes to studies in the history of science and other fields. Fedman problematizes the ideologies and practices of forest conservation and regeneration (“greenification”) within the asymmetric politics of colonial rule. Part 1 sets the stage with an overview of the institutional transformations of Japanese forestry across the Tokugawa-Meiji divide and the ways that Japanese “stories about the land… were mobilized in service of settler colonialism.” Part 2 begins with the reform of land rights under imperial rule. Fedman then delineates the histories of the Forest Experiment Stations, the timber industry (especially in the Yalu River basin), and the state-led project of civic forestry and the place of Forest Owners Associations. Finally, Part 3 looks at wartime (1937-1945), starting with the uses of “forest-love thought” as an “ideological lubricant” for mobilization and finally the spectacular denuding and exploitation of the Korean peninsula’s forests in support. Because of its transdisciplinarity, this book will appeal to a wide range of academic audiences.
Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese and East Asian history in the Graduate School of Humanities, Nagoya University.