The Negotiated Wild: Khmer-Kuy Relations and the Politics of Habitat in Lowland Cambodia before 1970.

Author(s): Jacob Gold

Year: 2015


1970, the year of the Lon Nol coup, marks the beginning of the contemporary era in Cambodian habitat politics. This rupture fundamentally upset the "balance of power" between two edgily symbiotic systems of human-habitat regime. While the Khmer propagated "srok," with its high-yield agriculture and large sedentary populations, the Kuy and other ethnic groups exploited "prey", the forest, furnishing the Khmer empire, along with a regional Chinese mercantile network, with a wide range of valuable forest products, including metals, elephants, medicine and wide-application resins.

Traditionally, the limit of the Angkorian Empire has been delineated by the topography of the Tonle Sap floodplain. However, the contemporary rush of "homesteading" farmers to rapidly deforested provinces proves that wet rice agriculture can thrive in what was once "deep forest" with sufficient labor input. The presence of Angkorian settlements "buried" in the forest is further evidence that earlier periods of Khmer history saw an ebb and flow of "srok" style settlement.

My paper draws upon field data as well as archaeological, historical and climatological evidence from the literature, to argue for the importance of ethno-political interactions in understanding the history of mainland SE Asia's habitat distributions, particularly that of lowland Cambodia.

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Cite this Record

The Negotiated Wild: Khmer-Kuy Relations and the Politics of Habitat in Lowland Cambodia before 1970.. Jacob Gold. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396690)

Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;