Rosewood occidentalism and orientalism in Madagascar

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13 Citations (Scopus)


As both a lucrative timber commodity and endangered species, rosewood ties the forests of Madagascar to the far ends of the globe. While the United States and Europe fund rosewood conservation, logging exports to China fuel a growing demand for classical furniture dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Conflicting demands for rosewood are often portrayed in terms of an East-West tension. Indeed, accounts of many global conservation resources, including ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts, and shark fin, fit this portrayal. In breaking with these accounts, I analyze global demands for rosewood in terms of two overlapping conservation and commodity assemblages. Both global assemblages have reterritorialized the forest of northeastern Madagascar. Via NGO offices in the United States, the conservation assemblage delineates vast tracts of forest for protection and identifies the communities that are to be its managers. Via rosewood importers in China, the commodity assemblage drives thousands of loggers into these protected forests in search of rosewood. Yet, rather than representing irreconcilable vantages, these global assemblages demonstrate a fundamental congruence. Both conservation and commodity assemblages blur global rationalities with situated cultural elements, creating the illusion of either a universal science uncorrupted by culture, or a cultural eminence uncorrupted by capitalism. Analyzing rosewood in terms of assemblage reveals not the stark contrast of an increasingly bifurcating global order, but rather an emergent space of global connectivity that complicates binary understandings of East and West, while simultaneously speaking to the reality of these geopolitical imaginaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Assemblage
  • Conservation
  • Deforestation
  • Globalization
  • Madagascar
  • Rosewood


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