State Territorialization and Illegal Logging

The Dynamic Relationships between Practices and Images of the State in Vietnam

Author: Phuc Xuan To


In spite of a government logging ban and wide deployment of forest protection staff, illegal logging persists in Vietnam. This article delves into this apparent paradox, examining the dynamic relationship between state governing practices and illegal logging. Using the lens of "territorialization" and taking a historical view, the author argues that the present logging ban should be understood as one element of a range of state territorial strategies that have been implemented since the beginning of the postcolonial era – strategies that have all aimed to control local people's access to forest resources. The author explains that in the 1950s–1980s, the government officially excluded local people from accessing forest resources, particularly timber; but then, following the doi moi (renovation) in the 1980s, it launched a "regulated inclusion" of local people. In this analysis, I show how state territorialization, including the logging ban, works to create spaces of state control that can then be used to generate informal rents, both materially and discursively, for state actors. These rents in turn bolster the state in myriad ways. However, various discrepancies emerge in the process, for example between state images and practices and between different levels of state administration.

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Countries: Vietnam

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© Phuc Xuan To