The Camphor Tree and the Elephant
Religion and Ecological Change in Maritime Southeast Asia
- PUBLISHED: February 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia, Environmental Studies, History / Environmental History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 280 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 5 b&w illus., 3 maps, 1 chart, 4 tables
- SERIES: Culture, Place, and Nature
- ISBN: 9780295751191
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
What is the role of religion in shaping interactions and relations between the human and nonhuman in nature? Why are Muslim and Christian organizations generally not a potent force in Southeast Asian environmental movements? The Camphor Tree and the Elephant brings these questions into the history of ecological change in the region, centering the roles of religion and colonialism in shaping the Anthropocene—"the human epoch." Historian Faizah Zakaria traces the conversion of the Batak people in upland Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula to Islam and Christianity during the long nineteenth century. She finds that the process helped shape social structures that voided the natural world of enchantment, ushered in a cash economy, and placed the power to remake local landscapes into the hands of a distant elite. Using a wide array of sources such as family histories, prayer manuscripts, and folktales in tandem with colonial and ethnographic archives, Zakaria brings everyday religion and its far-flung implications into our understanding of the environmental history of the modern world.
Authors & Contributors
Faizah Zakaria is assistant professor in the Departments of Southeast Asian Studies and Malay Studies at the National University of Singapore. She is coeditor of Fatwas of Singapore: Science, Medicine and Health.
"In its contents and methods, this captivating case study has far broader relevance beyond its regional focus."-
"While historians have produced studies of individual polities in the region before and after the imposition of imperial rule, The Camphor Tree and the Elephant is the first to situate this transition in a much larger environmental and religious perspective, thus providing a vibrant reevaluation of approaches to the Southeast Asian past."-
"Absolutely fantastic. The topics covered are without a doubt the most important and pressing issues that scholars—and humanity (and the planet)—are dealing with today."- Johan Elverskog, author of The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia
"Insightful work on such a vital subject."- Bradley Camp Davis, coeditor of The Cultivated Forest: People and Woodlands in Asian History