Organized Panel Session
Historiography of Southeast Asia has been enriched by historians’ examinations of how colonial plantations and capitalistic nature extraction affected changes in Southeast Asian economy, society, and polity. In the last ten years, however, some historians have begun to explore the role of scientists, scientific thought, and scientific institutions in the history of colonial science and agriculture. In their works, these historians shed light on the importance of colonial botanic gardens in shaping the practice of colonial botany and redirecting the colonial development agenda. In the past two years, interest in studying botanic gardens has further increased, including topics such as botanical experimentations and nature conservation. This important development inspired the creation of this panel which aims toward continuing to expand the field.
The papers in this panel discuss ways in which Southeast Asian nature was mastered by colonial and postcolonial regimes. In particular, the papers examine how botanic gardens played a role in rapid landscape transformation, bioprospecting activities, the birth of departments of agriculture, and the decolonization of science. This panel, proposes an understanding of the connections between botanic gardens and other colonial and national institutions as broad and complex. Accordingly, the papers contribute to the field by exploring relationships heretofore unexamined, such as those between botanic gardens and medical doctors, the new botany and colonial bureaucracy, and local biologists and international developmental agencies.