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The Wood Age in Asia

Connection and Comparison in Forest History

This conference will bring together scholars of South, Southeast, and East Asia for a discussion framed by the concept of a “wood age.” We will consider both the centrality of wood to material life in the premodern world and the changes brought by the industrialization of the forest. Using perspectives from social and cultural history; archeology and paleoecology; and the histories of art, architecture, science, and medicine, this conference will address the wide range of ways that people interacted with woodlands. These dialogues will help move forest history beyond the early focus on deforestation while offering an environmental critique of Asian history and correcting the current Eurocentric bias of forest history.

The conference will feature panels on the interactions between forests, wood, and six critical topics in Asian contexts: changing landscapes and patterns of land-use; the relationship between states and forests; knowledge regimes and ritual practices; colonialism and nationalism; borderlands and frontiers; and the link between governing institutions and specific sylvan species. Three distinguished scholars have been invited to frame our dialogues through an introductory address and keynote panel. We will conclude with a roundtable of experts to further comment on the implications of this research for other regions and disciplines. Altogether, we hope the conference will not only bring together interdisciplinary scholarship on Asian forests but also reexamine and recontextualize the basic concepts, terms, and records that form the basis of forest history, to establish the contexts for cross-cultural and diachronic comparisons.​An interdisciplinary international conference supported by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies Program on Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society, funded by the 

Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange

Additional funding from

The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund, MacMillan Center, Yale University

with the support of the following Yale Programs and Councils at the MacMillan Center, Yale University
The Council on East Asian Studies
The InterAsia Connections Program
The South Asian Studies Council
The Council on Southeast Asia Studies
The Program in Agrarian Studies

and with support from
The Department of Anthropology, Yale University

21-23 September 2018

10 Sachem Street
New Haven, CT


Bradley Camp Davis
Brian Lander
John S. Lee
Ian M. Miller
Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan

If you are an invited conference participant and already have a password, please click on this link Wood Age Papers to access the papers. If you have misplaced your password, please email

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