Foresters, Borders, and Bark Beetles
The Future of Europe's Last Primeval Forest
Published by: Indiana University Press
236 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 20 b&w illus., 1 map
- ISBN: 9780253049605
- Published: September 2020
In Europe's last primeval forest, at Poland's easternmost border with Belarus, the deep past of ancient oaks, woodland bison, and thousands of species of insects and fungi collides with authoritarian and communist histories.
Foresters, biologists, environmentalists, and locals project the ancient Białowieża Forest as a series of competing icons in struggles over memory, land, and economy, which are also struggles about whether to log or preserve the woodland; whether and how to celebrate the mixed ethnic Polish/Belarusian peasant past; and whether to align this eastern outpost with ultraright Polish political parties, neighboring Belarus, or the European Union. Eunice Blavascunas provides an intimate ethnographic account, gathered in more than 20 years of research, to untangle complex forest conflicts between protection and use. She looks at which pasts are celebrated, which fester, and which are altered in the tumultuous decades following the collapse of communism.
Foresters, Borders, and Bark Beetles is a timely and fascinating work of cultural analysis and storytelling that textures its ethnographic reading of people with the agency of the forest itself and its bark beetle outbreaks, which threaten to alter the very composition of the forest in the age of the Anthropocene.
1. Puszcza: Of Forests and Time
2. The Forester
3. Scientists and the Communist Past: Syndromes, Disorders, and a Proper Elite
4. Post-peasant Cosmopolitics: Man of the Forest
5. Borderline Engagements: Relict Forest, Relict Communism
6. Resurgence: Outbreaks of Bark Beetle and Right-wing Nationalism
7. Temporal Dimensions: The Past is not Safe at all
The three environmental policy positions and their exemplary representatives would be enough to turn the study into a cutting edge look at the recent past and present of one of the world's most controversial and at the same time most vulnerable ecosystems. Blavascunas can and wants to do more, namely not only to write ethnographically, but also to convince. It expressly does not absolutize the Kossaks, Szumarskis and Korbels, as would contemporary historical approaches, whose narratives cannot do without heroes and a simple conclusion: for or against the jungle and its preservation or deforestation. But it sets other accents; it is about a mapping of what would be possible outside of this pro-contra dichotomy. . . . Foresters, Borders, and Bark Beetles . . . dares a partisan intervention for the not so human actors in an ancient forest.~Bruno Arich-Gerz, TEXTEM