Reading the Minor Forest Products Bulletins of the Philippine Bureau of Forestry: A Case Study of the Role of Reference Works in the American Empire of the Early Twentieth Century
- Information & Culture: A Journal of History
- University of Texas Press
- Volume 53, Number 1, 2018
- pp. 43-66
- Additional Information
Empires are built around the control of information, with an often-overlooked aspect of empire building being the construction of tools of reference. These tools incorporate in summary form the multiplicity of inscriptions that are a product of the empire's epistemological operations. In order to shed some light on this face of empire, this article focuses on three readings of the minor forest products bulletins published by the Bureau of Forestry of the Philippines in the early twentieth century. The first of these readings sees the bulletins as demonstrating the Bureau of Forestry's mastery of the forest domain in the face of natural and human resistance to the bureau's work. In the second reading, we can see the bureau's efforts to create and assist "botanical entrepreneurs" capable and willing to exploit forest products in an efficient manner. Finally, we can read the bulletins as particular manifestations of the botanical guide as a genre. In this case, the bulletins created a series of "inscription clusters" that served to enhance the authority of the Bureau of Forestry as a mediator between users and the forests of the Philippines.