Isle of Fire

The Political Ecology of Landscape Burning in Madagascar

Christian A. Kull

Isle of Fire
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Christian A. Kull

256 pages | 17 halftones, 11 line drawings, 19 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2004
Paper $32.00 ISBN: 9780226461410 Published July 2004
Long considered both best friend and worst enemy to humankind, fire is at once creative and destructive. On the endangered tropical island of Madagascar, these two faces of fire have fueled a century-long conflict between rural farmers and island leaders. Based on detailed fieldwork in Malagasy villages and a thorough archival investigation, Isle of Fire offers a detailed analysis of why Madagascar has always been aflame, why it always will be aflame, and ultimately, as Christian Kull argues, why it should remain aflame.

Association of American Geographers: James M. Blaut Award

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Robert Kuhlken | Annals of the Association of American Geographers
"The book is attractively produced and impeccably edited. . . . Most emphatically, Isle of Fire . . . . is certain to become one of those volumes that will fly off the shelves and into our hands for a long time to come."
Stephen J. Pyne | Quarterly Review of Biology
“What Isle of Fire contributes is a wealth of data; a systematic survey of fire in grasslands, woodlands, and forests; a detailed account of the politics by which Madagascar’s elites have consistently misread the landscape; and a conceptual parsing of the various issues.”
J.B. Kirkpatrick | Institute of Australian Geographers
I highly recommend this book to all those interested in resource conflict, fire and rural systems, and suggest that it will be of major use in a wide variety of units offered in university geography and environmental science courses."
Theresa Wong | Development and Chance
"The book clearly demonstrates Kull's wealth of experience in the political ecology of Madagascar, borne out by his rich field data collection and experience. The text is endowed with precise language, rich ethnographic detail and colonial historical sources. . . . An interesting read--for the successful way it conveys the multiplicity of discourses around fire, and the lively, detailed and thorough way Kull traces fire's rebellious nature."
Paul Laris | Environmental Conservation
"In a carefully crafted and richly detailed book that weaves together political analysis and ecology, Kull argues that the real fire problem encompasses a century-long political struggle. . . . Kull is writing about fire on the island of Madagascar, but his argument holds true for at least a dozen other countries in Africa and elsewhere. . . . Isle of Fire is superbly written. Kull's style is fluid and his use of jargon is kept at a minimum. . . . I recommend it to scholars and practitioners interested in understanding the causes of persistent environmental conflicts, be they related to fire or not."
Peter Messerll | Mountain Research and Development
"I highly recommend this book, not only to readers interested in fire as a resource management tool, but also to a broader public interested in scientific knowledge production that aims at innovative strategies allowing for integration of socioeconomic development and conservation objectives."
Michael Sheridan | Current Anthropology
"The countrywide coverage and ecological detail make this book the definitive benchmark for all future work on fire in Africa. It is also valuable for its contributions to a theoretical framework for the interdisciplinary field of political ecology. . . . A tour de force of political ecology, geography, and model building."
J.B. Kirkpatrick | Geographical Research
"I highly recommend this book to all those interested in resource conflict, fire and rural systems, and suggest that it will be of major use in a wide variety of units offered in university geography and environmental science courses."
Paul Laris | Environmental Conservation
"Superbly written. Kull's style is fluid and his use of jargon is kept to a minimum. . . . In the tradition of the best political ecology, Kull's is an eclectic work that combines detailed description of indigenous land-use practices with careful social theoretical analysis that draws upon a broad mix of theory. I recommend it to scholars and practictioners interested in understanding the causes of persistent envoironmental conflicts, be they related to fire of not."
Geographical Review
"A tour de force. Deftly combining the perspectives of fire ecology and political ecology and drawing on a variety of archival, documentary, interview, and field-based sources, Kull's detailed, authoritative, gracefully written, and handsomely illustrated work is a major contribution to our understanding of the Malagasy 'fire problem' while underscoring the need to appreciate the broader ecological, socioeconomic, political, ideological, and historical context in which resource struggles occur. . . . It will prove of great interest and value to geographers, anthropologists, ecologists, environmentalists, and many others."
Part One: The Fire Problem
1. The Isle of Fire: Problem, Theory, and Setting
2. The Nature of Fire: Bad Fire, Good Fire, Complex Fire
Part Two: Landscape Burning and Livelihoods
3. Grassland Fire: The Agropastoral Logic of Fire across the Highlands
4. Woodland Fire: Fire and Rural Economy in the Tapia Woodlands
5. Forest Fire: Slash-and-Burn Farmers on a Forest Frontier
Part Three: Fire Politics
6. The Struggle over Fire: Criminalization and Resistance
7. Fire Politics: A History of State Antifire Efforts
8. Empowering Rural Fire Setters: Towards Community-Based Fire Management
9. Conclusion
1. Official Statistics of Annual Fire Extent
2. Summary of Legislation and Government Acts Relevant to Fire, 1896-1998
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