Gosling-SEAS215 - GEOGRAPHY AND DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTHEAST...

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Unformatted text preview: GEOGRAPHY AND DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTHEAST ASLA L. A. Peter Gosling University of Michigan SUMMAEE This paper seeks to develop several interwoven themes I consider to be important in understanding geographic factors in the development of Southeast Asia. To do so requires considerable generalization, to which it is possible to Find many exceptions in a region as varied in both form and process as Southeast Asia. -Nevertheless, underlying this variety is a remarkable degree of similarity throughout the region in the interaction of man and physical environment which has produced its historical and current pattern of deVelopment. In brief, the paper suggests that Southeast Asia's location places it in direct and continuous contact with the wider world. Its Fragmented structure inhibits the development of a strong, autonomous core tradition. The result is a great diversity in the human geography, and great complexity in the social and political history, mirrored in many of the problems of Southeast Asian nation—states today. However, the basic unityr underlying this diversity is related in turn to other geographic factors. The general similarity of climate and soils in the region led to simila: patterns of traditional agricultural economy and society throughout the region. Behind the small trading and urban elites involved in the complex external contacts was a stable traditional . agricultural society-which developed impressively complex, delicately balanced systems for using Southeast Asia's somewhat poor resources. ‘As long as the ekternal market was primarily extractive for forest products and ‘ minerals, this rural population was little changed and could provide the slight surpluses gathered from the Forest and farms required by regional Chinese and Indian markets. However, as Foreign nations industrialized in the colonial period, the increased direct demands on this peasant agricultural society fbr new Crops, as weil as For labor, upset a delicate equilibrium of people and reSOurces, and created considerable social, economic and ecological dislocation, even as output and productivity in certain sectors were increased . INTRODUCTION ‘ The image of Southeast Asia traditionally held in the rest of the world is that of a region of great riches and wealth. The Chinese were Fascinated by the varied products of its tropical Forest, ranging from brightly—colored bird feathers to fragrant fibrest woods. The Greeks assumed a Golden KherSonese, 'in which gold and untold wealth were available in a tropical paradise. The wealth of the Indies was a beacon in the Age of Discovery, leading the Portuguese eastward and Columbus westward in search of access to the spices of Southeast Asia. Even in the recent colonial period, the _ exploitation of natural resources or the success of introduced plantation Crops made the Southeast Asian territories among the most profitable For ._u~uq_..._,_fiw mm". H. v—nA-q-Mu—mw .m‘... ..._ “mt” -...—........,.m...« s”... .. -¢\-_-H|-u-WM .n. the colonial powers .' The loss of strategic supplies of tin, rubber, quinine ‘ and other Southeast Asian products during World War II reaffirmed in the middle twentieth century the wealth bf the region and its vital importance to the balance of the world. It was common during the Vietnam War to offer. the explanation that the vital interest leading the United States into the 'conflict was the importance to its economy of resources in Vietnam and its Scutheast Asian neighbors. The image of Southeast Asian wealth is of long standing and dies hard. In Fact, as the geographer views the region, it has a fairly unimpressive resource base, with the very recent exception of the magic power of petroleum in a few countries. Indeed, the major "treasure" of Southeast Asia is not its fabled natural resources, but the impressive way in which the population of Southeast Asia has used its somewhat limited resource base to survive over 'the centuries . LOCATION A geographer views location as a "resource. " Southeast Asia is located, as its name suggests, at thelsoutheastern corner oF Asia, between the sub—- continent of India to the west and the Chinese land mass to the north, and the island worlds of Australia and Oceania to the east. Southeast Asia is a link between all these regions: the easy water route from India to China lies through Southeast Asia, which is the stepping stone island bridge to Australia and the Pacific. Because of its location, Southeast Asia'has had early and continuous contact with both India and China, and has been influenced by these u.-m-w.mm . - I‘m-“Wu WWIW— -...~ .-.._._-_...... .._.._.....m.......-w_« mum.” .. "Hua— _.._«F _ . ._.._,. ........_.._..........m. neighboring cultures in a variety of ways . On a global level, even sea - trade not directed to Southeast Asia has had to pass through the constricted waters oF the region, so that from the earliest development of maritime commerce, Indian, Arab, Chinese, Portuguese and later European traders-Xi have come to Southeast Asia on'their passage to other, parts of the world. K Colonial control in Southeast Asia was important as much For control oF world trade routes as it was for exploitation of the region‘s own resourCes, and today the Japanese Fear political instability in this region which lies astride their vital supply routes FOr Middle Eastern oil. The. main motif in the history of Southeast Asia is one of the diversity of-‘Ipeoples, cultures, languages and religions, as well as the complexities of its history, all reflect this easy accessibility. .STRUCTURE MOst of Southeast Asia is upland, low hills and mountains; only 10% Could be considered level river valley or coastland. The region is physically "ficagrnented": the mainland of Southeast Asialis subdivided by north to south trending mountain ranges which divide it into a series of compartments. The'island area of’ Southeast Asia (Indonesia and the Philippines) is fragmented in thousands of islands, Festooned over morethan Five thousandamiles of ocean. WaVeS of population migration primarily From or via adjacent parts of Asia scattered a variety of‘ peoples and cultures over this fragmented landscape. Through time, the population of various separated river valleys, isolated mountain basins, and scattered islands became increasingly u...“ __. una— ... .1... . differentiated, producing what may be the most diverse population in the world in terms ol’ the number of different languages and cultures found within the region. It is within this human landscape that the diversity of Southeast Asia is Found, and not within the physical landscape in which the tropical environment provides a degree or environmental similarity from place to place. While the physical landscape is not diverse, it is Fragmented, and this fragmentation has contributed to a fragmented political history. There is no major large land area or core, such as the North China Plain or the Indus" Ganges basin of Southeast Asia‘s immediate neighbors, where a crude continuity of Chinese and Indian civilization developed. Rather, the situation is more like that of Europe, where the diverse populations of various com— partments From time to time extended their COntrol over adjacent compart— ments, or built empires based on coastal trade. But, as in European history, the focal point 01* these sequential empires shifts From one compartment to the next. There is no continued involvement of the, peasant population in these shifting empires, and the political drama, lacking the more direct involvement in a national culture which was characteristic of the peasantry in the Chinese and Indian core regions, is played out far removed from the daily lives of the peasantry. CLIMATE The basic unity oF Southeast Asia is Found in a common it" Fragmented physical environment and, based on this, a common subsistence economy. From one part of the region to another the cultural diversity may be substantial, with different languages and religions, but the way in which these different .___ ___pe.o_pies. use theinresources is_.much the same. A Burmese farmer dropped into the Philippine rice landscape 3,000 miles away would find tools, techniques and way of life almost identical with that of Burma. Central to this common physical environment is the tropical climate shared by the entire region. There is no part of Southeast Asia (except for high mountain areas) which receives killing frost: the entire region has a year—round growing season. The climatic factor that differentiates one part of Southeast Asia from another is rainfall. _There is a wide difference in the total amount of rainfall from place to place, ranging from over 200 inches on high mountain slopes facing moist sea—winds to less than 50 inches in interior locations of mainland Southeast Asia, far from the oceans, or in areas cut off from moist air masses by intervening mountain ranges. However, the seasonal distribution of rainfall is even more significant than the total in its effect on agriculture. Over most of Southeast Asia _ rainfall is sharply seasonal with a marked Wet season and dry season. During the wet season the rivers may overflow and there may be more water than can be efficiently used in agriculture, while during the dry season cultivation of the baked, parched earth is impossible without irrigation. This seasonality of rainfall is due to the pattern of air mass movement usually referred to as the monsoon. In insular and peninsular Southeast Asia monsoons produce rainfall throughout the year because, whatever wind direction prevails, air masses from the surrounding seas bring rainfall. However, in mainland Southeast Asia, rainfall is sharply seasonal, and in the interior of Thailand, Burma .1 and Laos the dry season may last almost half-‘_ the year. In addition to seasonality of rainfall, these interior locations also suffer From decreased reliability and predictability of rainfall. Rainfall amounts may vary from year to year, and the dates on which the rains come may also shift. This contributes to the precariousness oF agriculture in these interior locations. SOILS If the tropical climate provides relatively benign conditions, the quality of Southeast Asian soils places some limits on what man can accomplish under these greenhouse conditiOns. Most of the upland areas of Southeast . Asia, which comprise about 88 percent of’ the land area, have a relatively '- thin covering of poor upland clay soils, derived From the ancient underlying rocks. The poverty oF these soils is due to the low amount of humus (due in turn to the rapic rate of decomposition of vegetation under conditions of heavy rainfall, constant high temperature, and uninterrupted bacterial action) and the process of leaching, in which constant high temperature and rainfall combine to dissolve and remove most of the soluble chemical constituents in the soil. With the absence of“ humus and the leaching most soluble nutrients, these topical soils are among the poorest in the world. Such soils cannot be. used i’Or more than single crop season without long periods of lying i’allcm to recover From cultivation. in general crop yields'on such soils re very 'rr .. About 10 percent of the soils are alluvial soils, which have been eroded .from the uplands and deposited along river valleys, deltas, and coastal plains. .These soils are much poorer in fertility than the similar river valley "bottom land " soils of the United States because they are derived from much pOOrer upland soils and contain relatively little humus. However, small amounts of humus, better structure, and the availability of water in most of the lowland areas make these alluvial soils very important For crop production. It is the river valleys, deltas, and coastal plains where the majority of the Southeast Asian population is located: 90 percent. of the popu— lation occupies this 10 percent of the land area. To improve the productivity of these soils, this population has developed agricultural techniques, including irrigated wet rice cultivation, which enhance productivity and permit continuous cultivation. 'A third category of soils, Found chiefly in the mountainous islands of the Philippines and Indonesia, and occupying only about 2 percent of the land, are volcanic soils oF relatively recent origin. They can be acidic and poor For agriculture, Or they can be base and extremely rich, depending on the types of parent rock From which the volcanic soils are derived. Base volcanic soils have high natural fertility, a porosity which retains moisture, angular soil fragments which enable them to be easily terraced, and are easily cultivated. The contrast in populatior carrying capacity between these richest Southeast Asian soils-"the basin. volcanic soils-—and the poorest Southeast Asian soils—“the upland lateritic soils—-—is striking: population densities of 1 ,000 per square mile on the volcanic soils of Java and Bali ...__._._ a.....hr... ...._........_1......u....., .....q.w r. 1......" r“... ..,. u...- _. ... .._. ._—ww..-..-— .-__,..,__....._..- .. .m.._.... .1».-. - w... .uvmmu-w m—uw-ww .r ... ... .. are common, while the usual population density on upland laterite ranges between two and ten per square mile. FOR EST While the quality of soil is often directly reflected in the type and yield of farm cr0ps, it is less immediately apparent in the natural vegetation. All of Southeast Asia at one time was covered with one of several forms of dense tropical or subtropical forest. Differences in forest type more often reflect differences in rainfall than in soil type. It has always seemed something of a paradox that poor upland lateritic soils can support some of the meet luxuriant and complex forests of the world, but mankind has long since learned that. land which supports dense forests does not necessarily produce abundant field crops. In the tropics a complex and delicate equilibrium exists between the growing tree and the soil on which it grows: trees draw upon rainwater and the rapid decomposition of fallen leaves for most of their nutrients. Only a. relatively small share of necessary nutrients are drawn from the soil itself. Hence, poor soils bear rich forests, which only gradually over decades make modest annual demands on the soils; however, such poor soils cannot bear agricultural crops, which make substantial and recurrent annual demands on limited soil fertility. The high rainfall and temperature, _which hasten impoverishment of the soils through laterization, actually sustain the forests that occupy these impoverished soils. There are a-wide range of different types of forest in Eoutheast Asia, primarily representis‘ig a combination of climatic and soil conditions. The most complex and luxuriant is the equatorial. rain Forest, which is found in areas with a high total rainfall that is well distributed throughout the year . This Forest characterized by a very great diversity of species, often exce'eding 1,200 per acre. 'As rainfall becomes seasonal, this Forest is '1 ‘II repiaced by the ‘so—called monsoon Forest, which contains Fewer species and I" is less dense and complex. Extremes of climate or soil conditions prbduce special types of Forests, For example, bamboo and thorn forest occupy parts of the interior of mainland Southeast Asia with a long, dry period, while I mangrove Forest occupy coastal areas with salt—water—Flooded saline clay _« soils. The rich variety of Southeast Asian forests again reflects its location: Southeast Asia shares South Asia—Himalayan, East Asian, and Australasian «flora and Fauna. This variety not only creates a naturalist's paradise, but also provides a wide range of items for the hunter and gatherer, as well as; I the raw material for estensive plant and animal domestication. The Forest is the major "resource" For Southeast Asians. Yet the FOrest was not only a source of the raw materials from which people hunted and gathered and ultimately developed agricultural systems, it also remained. a major com-— petitor. -'i_'he rate of: tropical forest growth rapidly overwhelms man‘s croplands, and the Forest always seems a threatening reservoir-oi= evil spirits, disease, and potential enemies. It is not surprising that "Forest Fear" is characteristic of the generally similar Folk "religions" Found I throughout Southeast Asia. In additicbn, it is not sorprising that much on“ the equatorial forest in Southeast Asia has only recently been "dominated" _ by man. The earliest prehistoric agricultural sites in Northeast Thailand were in areas of dry monsoon Forest, where man could more easily destroy or control competing Forest vegetation. On the other hand, large areas of dense tropical Forest remained undisturbed until the nineteenth and even twentieth centuries, when the introduction of "\Nestern" engineering technology, modern medicine, population pressures, and market demand combined to produce forces which the Forest could not withstand. Man's earliest use of: the varied forest of Southeast Asia was as a hunter and gatherer, collecting the myriad plants and animals by ingenious means. The Few surviving hunting and gathering'groups now occupy remote and poor refuge areas, which do not reflect the richer resources of the now- destroyed high—quality lowland forest they once used, but these surviving groups still display an impressive "technology" for harVesting the complex tropical forest." In the transition to agriculture, Southeast Asia demonstrates the value of this vast reservoir of plant species, and the ingenuity of its inhabitants. One theory has long suggested that plant domestication and the "invention" of agriculture First took place in coastal areas of Southeast Asia. The excavations at Bang Chen in inland Thailand provide the earliest dates in agriculture, with rice cultivation dating back to about 4,000 B.C. , and ' impressive remains of pottery and bronze technology. The list of plants and animals first-domesticated in Southeast Asia includes rice, taro, yams, vine peppers, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, sugarcane, ginger, cucumbers, eggplant, and hur-udreds oi" other fruits and vegetables, plus the pig, chicken, dog, and water-buffalo. Where the Southeast Asian peasant'today has access to the. forest, he still u'ses it as a source For a- variety of items for consumption and sale. Plant domestication continues, and the Southeast Asianvillage ‘c0ntains a ‘1 bewildering range of different plants and trees, which are impOrtant in the local diet, but most of“ which are not known outside the region. Southeast ' Asian agricultural systems reflect the diversity of the Forest: they make use I of a wide range of the plants and animals tamed From the forest in impressiyely complex mixed agricultural systems. Monoculture, or specialization in the I production of a single type of crop, was rare in Southeast ’Asia until introduced with colonial exploitation ot the region in the late nineteenth century. A Fairly widely accepted view is that Southeast Asia, because of its location hetween the major "cultures" of China and India, was heavily influenced by both and has a culture and society more "derivative" than original. Such external influence is apparent in religion, writing systems, elements of law, higher social and political organization, art, and literature, but Southeast Asian agriculture is not derivative. It seems likely that both the giants that became the mainstay of Asian peasant agriculture (suchas rice and coconuts), as Well as the key techniques fOr their production, came from Southeast Asia and were imported by its western and northern neighbors. In this case Southeast Asia should not be vieWed as subordinate to adjacent . cultures, but as a contributing, if silent, partner' in the deVelopment of the complex patterns of Asian agricultural techniques. But let us return to the forest. It Served undisturbed For-tens of «mm-gum . “Ha... thousands of years as a smorgasbord of’ diverse plants and animals for its sparse hunting and gathering population. In transition it served (and continues to serve) as a reservoir ot‘ species which have made Southeast Asia the most important single world region for plant and animal domestication. Many of the products gathered from the Forest, or domesticated from the Forest, provided the main commodities in Southeast Asia's ancient trade with China, India, and the wider world. Indeed, it was the spices domesticated (and in some cases gathered) from the Southeast Asian forests that first attracted European penetration into the region. And today, forest rattan for furniture, .damar For varnish, and dozens of other forest products still move in world trade . But it is only more recently that the Forest trees themselves have become important in world commerce—wfor their timber, rather than their bark, sap, Fruit and other by~products. In some cases timber was such'a valuable resource that it led to direct political intervention to control the resource. The British sought control of Burma to ensure their supply of Burmese teak, vital for ship construction For the British navy. Those ship “walls of good English Oak” which staved onc Napoleon's ambitions I were made more often of Asian teak. However, teak was some thing of an exception, and the costs of exploiting the Southeast Asian Forest often exceeded possible returns, until the last. two decades . Exploitation costs were high because oF the mixed nature oF the equatorial tropical forest and-the relativer small number of trees OF recognized international value in any given area of Forest. Hence the costs 01‘ extracting a single ebony tree form a tangled square mile of _Forest made tropical lumbering a limited smallescale operation. But in the last Few decades a combination of an exploding world market For timber, new timber technology (which makes use of a Wider range of species), plywood and veneering techniques, and mechanized lumbering technology have all combined to make exploitation of the Southeast Asian forest one of the most profitable sectors of their export economies, and one that has already had severe ecological consequences. Thus, the forest, which nurtured Southeast Asian culture in its early millenia, provided the raw materials FOr the develop- ment of agriculture, sustained early trade with its varied products, enriched local agricultural economies through use of’ its varied products, provided vital firewood and charcoal and protected river watershed is now disappearing, along with the topsoil eroded from denuded slopes. The careless exploitation and destruction of the Southeast Asian Forest is probably the most serious ecological (and hence economic) problem facing the region. SVVIDDEN AND SAWAH (\NE‘l’ RICE) AGRICULTURE From the point of view of the peasant Farmer the forest is primarily a . competitor: it occupies space needed for crops and threatens the survival of farm fields through its regenerative capacity. In Southeast Asia, Farmers coped with the Forest in two ways. In those areas where the lateritic soils were too poOr For continuous Farming, farmers tel‘nporarily cleared the Forest For agriculture by burning and utilized the rapid regenerative capacity of the Forest as a way of“ building up nutrients for subsequent and periodic reuse For agricultural purposes. On the better lowland alluvial soils farmers destroyed-the Forest and replaced it, where possible, with a system of“ irrigated agriculture designed to both preserve and enhance the limited Fertility of these lowland soils. These tWO systems, the so~called swidden (or upland farming system) and the sawah (or wet rice lowland system), dominated a large part ._.__—.~-—.-.-— 01’ the peasant agriculture. Swidden is a term widely used to describe an agricultural system which involves the temporary clearing of Forest land in order to use it f'or cropland. The standing forest vegetation is killed by ring barking or cutting and, after a period of drying, is burned. Burning kills the Forest vegetation and seeds, eiiminating competitors for the crop. The ash from the burn provides valuable potash, to neutralize the acidity of upland soils and to fertilize the 'crop. Burning also makes soils more easily worked, mOre absorptive of rainfall, and mere productive. There are a variety of other benefits in this complex system, that permit the production of high crop yields on these burned plots. However, the main source oF nutrients For the crop is the ash produced From burning the Forest, and after one year of’ use the ash is depleted and the Field must be abandoned. The forest is permitted to regenerate——to grow for a period oF from ten to twenty years while it stores up more energy or nutrients in the Form of tree growth (potential ash)——and then the cycle of burning and farming is repeated. IF,the swidden system is kept in equilibrium it can be repeated again and again. However, a range of problems From population increases among swidden farmers to alternative uses of the forest for timber inhibit the equilibrium operation oF the system, and in many areas swidden has changed wwwn— WWW”, Mr”. -—-.-.q-. - from an equilibrium system into a damaging System of: over—cultivation , that is impoverishing and ruining forest lands. A traditional system of coping with the forest. has become destructive under the changes. of the modern eéonomy and society. - I - ' I - Forests occupying the richer lowland alluvial soils were permanently removed to permit continuous farming. Continuous cultivation is possible because of the higher natural fertility of alluvial soils, which are enhanced through the use of irrigation water. Rice is the preferred crop wherever. it can be grown.‘ As a semi—aquatic plant it is one of the Few crops that can be grown in valleys and lowlands Flooded by monsoon rains. IRice produces a high yield per acre, and is both nutritious and tasty so long as. the bran layer is not removed by polishing. ' But the major characteristic of rice which made it a vital tropical Food crop is the hard hull that surrounds each individual grain. The hull prevents moisture from entering and thus eliminates the rot and decomposition that plague other grain and root crops in the humid tropics. As long as‘the hull is lei”: intact, rice” can be stored for many years; hence good years can permit storage for bad years, and stored surpluses can permit. reallocation of labor and increased specialization of production. This key advantage oF-rice has led to its-adoption in peasant societies throughout the humid tropics of the world. - ‘I The simplest Form of irrigation is to retain flood and monsoon waters on a diked riceffield, or to channel waters to them. As population pressure increased more cornpiex irrigatiOn technology was adopted or developed. Irrigated rice agriculture draws far feWer nutrients From the soils than dry ./\ .—.._..h. —.‘._ w __ “map-f. ,.___.... w _... field farming. The'irrigation water supplies'some nutrients and trace n . elements, while algae growth in-the Flooded field combines with other factors in a complex wet Field ecology to contribute to crop yields without exhausting I. ' the limited soil fertility of these relatively poor alluvial soils ._ Continuous cultivation of rice, literally For centuries, is possible, whereas .a dry ficrop would exhaust limited soil fertility within afew years. Moreover, in the wet rice System' additional units of labor usually produce increases in yield suFFicient for the increased population, thus making it the most elastioas well as the most predictable and stable cropping system. Wet rice technology spread all over Eastern and Southern Asia, and it is difficult to be sure where various elements in the complex technology originated. At-one time it was thought that Southeast Asia borrowed the technology From China, but now it seems that many parts of the shared technology, as well as rice itself, originated in Southeast Asia. However, there is a general difference in orientation between the two regions . In China there is an attempt to alter nature to conform to a basic system oF rice production: irrigation systems are designed to bring water to the land on command, and the land is levelled to make it suitable for irrigation. Therefore, the Chinese may be said to adjust the land to fit 'the technology of the system. In ‘Southeast Asia, on the other hand, there is a great variety offdifferent rice producing systems, adjusted to different sets of environmental conditions. To be sure, the preferred and most productive system of rice production involves the same irrigation and land terracing that i:ypil"ies.the Chinese "model, ” but there are also 'Systems growing rice in deep swan-ins, in upland fields, and on dry hillsides . Southeast Asian rice agriCulture shows the same sensitivity to the environmental realities and the same adjustment to nature that characterize the symbiotic swidden system, or even basic hunting and gathering. Southeast Asian Folk religion emphasizes this relationship: man is a part of nature, lives in harmony with nature, and does not try to alter it by changing the course of rivers or the contour of hills. Natural spirits abound, including the vital spirit of rice, and man must recognize the existence and rights of these spirits in this use of their forest, their fields, and their plants. In traditional Southeast Asia, man coped with a varied it relatively poor tropical environment in an impressive manner. The Forest provided a storehouse of plants and animals For the development of diverse and complex cultivation systems, where swidden agriculture permitted the use of land otherwise of no value for human occupancy, and wet rice technology made a substantial contribution to the most widespread and productive agriCultural system in the world. At the same time, Southeast Asia's location, accessible to major culture areas, obscured the FOrmidable achievements of these agricultural innovators because of the introduction and overlay of more highly developed religious, political and social Forms From their neighbors. The absence of‘a major Focal point of sustained socio—political development within the region inhibited the development of a major indigenous Southeast Asian "great" tradition to match the more panerfiJl ones in adjacent areas of India and China. Thus, From one point ot‘ view, Southeast Asia was the passive recipient of external influences, while at the same time its crops ... .. ._.a m“— ...,-._.....,........ and agricultural technology flowed in the other direction, and its peasant « tradition made major contributions to the same nations‘which influenced its great traditions. The tradition oF the Southeast Asian elite receiving, and the peasant population giving, has deep roots.. - I“ TRANSFORMATION Initial exploitation of Southeast Asian resources mainly involved trade , in the exotics gathered from’the forest and surrounding seas. This volume _ of trade in Feathers, wild animal skins, incense woods, shells and pearls, spices, medicinal plants, dye woods, and a thousand other commodities attracted traders From across the East Asian seas and the Indian Ocean. Such traders were ofien the vector For the esternal influences which had major impact on the elite traditions of Southeast Asia but Far less impact on the peasant population, who were often physically and politically remote From their leadership. The peasant could cope with the limited demands made on him by local leaders to provide (items fontrade, and iF such demands became excessive there was always the escape of a more distant frontier with Vacant land where the Farmer could start again; “The early stages of European penetration in the region did not immediately alter this pattern. Initially European traders also gathered the normal Flow of surpluses, but a number of factors soon changed this relationship. As market demands shifted in Europe, the costs of achieving and defending trade monopolies. mounted, and as shareholders sought mere profits early trading ventures became less permissive and more coercive, seeking to greatly "1 e>tpand peasant production, or Force them to grow new crops which had ‘ greater market value. These new pressures posed major problems For the Southeast Asian peasant and strained the "coping" ability so evident in his traditional way of life . One classical view suggests that the Southeast Asian Farmer would not respond to the demand for new crops or higher levels of production, or to the need For wage labOr in tin mines or colonial cities, because he was already a secure Farmer, a son of the soil, who had no interest in nor need for additional earnings. In addition, it was noted that at least in comparison with the Chinese and Indian workers later imported to the region the Southeast Asian farmer did not have an impressive work ethic-“or, in the eyes of Europeans, he was "lazy. " However, more careful examination suggests that the Southeast Asian farmer already had a history of changing or coping and that the reasons he did not respond to the impetus oF the colonial economy were more complex . In general, most of’ traditional Southeast Asia was short of labor, and subsistence Farms suffered (as many still suffer) From at least seasonal labor shortages. This was probably the main reason for not responding to demands for increased production or new crops, particularly those which were seasonally labor—intensive, such as sugar. In other areas, where there was adequate labor, there was usually little land on which to plant such new crops without displacing vital Food crop agriculture. Finally, labOr shortages were also responsible For the peasants‘ inability to respond to job opportunities in wage employment. In areas where there was surplus labor, particularly combined with surplus land, or where the new 'crop substantially increased - income within the available limits of land and labor (such as rubber), the Southeast Asian Farmer showed his traditional ability to cope, to adapt the new crop to his environment and economy, and to flow in the mainstream '3; of Change and development. 5. However, the rate at which the world market demanded changes of= Southeast Asian production was much more rapid than could be coped with within traditional patterns, and the colonial powers had to turn elsewhere to staff= some parts of the economic transformation that they brought to the region. The introduction of Foreign labor into Southeast Asia was encouraged and sponsored, and Chinese and Indian workers came to fill jobs in production, administration, infrastructure development, and commerce. The addition of these minorities to the economic and social Fabric oF-Southeast Asia somewhat lessened thelirnmediate impact of the world market on the peasant, but it also created ethnic acciowpolitical problems which persist to this day. I Nevertheless, alien labor and colonial management and administration did not seal off the peasant population From the impact of the world market. Within a century a traditional, stable, generalized,‘ and largely subsistence agricultural system that had made use of“ a wide range of crops (in addition to wet ricej had been widely transformed into a soméWhat unstable, increasingly monocrop, specialized, and partly commercial agricultural- system. Traditional crafts had been displaced byimported manut‘actured goods, and the local labor exchange had been disrupted awage market. Changes in land law together with new agricultural technology changed the socially cohesive village, which had been characterized by usufructuary -land control and distributive surplus sharing mechanisms, into communities . with a rising landlord class, landless villagers, and surplus concentrating mechanisms. The Southeast Asian village by Werld'War II was much changed in Form, operation, and values from the traditional, balanced, .coping, Estable' community of the pre-colonial period. Moreover, as population increased and new Forms oi’ land use came in, the once open Frontier began to close, _ I and there were Fewer and FeWer areas of free agricultural land to whichthe dislocated and disaffected could move. In addition, population increases, the delineation of national boundaries, and the setting aside of forest reserves destabilized the precariously balanced swidden system. Whereas the traditional agricultural systems could cope With the marginal environments of Southeast Asia, the severe social and ecological problems which have arisen in the last century threaten to overwhelm this stable way of life. ides providing féod for the re than a quar \r billion pe‘ la in the regi n, Southeast Asia is a major porter of agricult ral com odities to the wor d [’2’ groWn by p74 " s or on plantations. The st important single cro remains natural ru fur, a tree crop From Brazirlj/{lniquely suited to oultiv ' f upland la e/ritic soils in equatOrial S '1 heastAsia. Originally gig; I ‘Nl'l under ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/15/2010 for the course SEA 215 taught by Professor Lorenryter during the Winter '10 term at University of Michigan.

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Gosling-SEAS215 - GEOGRAPHY AND DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTHEAST...

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