Christine Padoch

In doing research over the last 15 years or so, I have switched hemispheres, cultures, crops, and theoretical assumptions. However, the principal focus of my work has remained largely the same. I study the ways in which people manage and use the plant resources of the humid tropics. This interest is, of course, a very broad one and in pursuing it I have studied many facets of people's lives. Thus, although I am an ecological anthropologist and spend most of my time looking at how people farm and manage forest products, I have also found it necessary to trace the histories of tribal migrations, to study the demographic behavior of families, to make sense of the complex networks through which forest products are marketed, to unravel traditional land tenure laws, to collect the plants that people use as markers of good farm land, and to elicit the knowledge and classification schemes through which people make sense of their natural environments.

I have carried out my research largely in the forests and villages of the island of Borneo and Amazonia, often as part of a team of natural and social scientists. Recently my research has emphasized how changeable even the most "traditional" patterns are, how complex the seemingly most simple technologies turn out to be, and how important such research is to planning for economic and social change in tropical areas. I am now writing a book with geographer Harold C. Brookfield on Agrodiversity that will summarize much of what I have studied over the last two decades. I will also continue to carry out a project on the management of forests by tribal peoples in the province of West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and the use of floodplains by rural folk in Amazonia.

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Selected Publications