Rubber has been a key commodity for industrial societies since the nineteenth century. Yet, studies of the impact of the production of this good on various regions around the world have mostly been narrowly focused on the industry and its workers. My forthcoming book, Rubber and the Making of Vietnam, adopts a broader lens, what I call an ecological history, to examine the role of rubber in shaping Vietnamese society in the twentieth century. Through this lens, I examine how the evolving relationships between humans and non-humans contributed to both the projects of empire and nation building. I argue that rubber, and rubber plantations, structured the material and symbolic bodies and landscapes of the postcolonial nation of Vietnam. In my talk, I will touch on the promises and the perils of such ecological histories and the new perspectives on the past that they offer.
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