Reciprocal Relationship of Culture and Environment in Asia

Two Recent Environmental Histories of South and Southeast Asia


  • Albertina Nugteren Tilburg University



environmental history, south asia


Peter Boomgaard, Southeast Asia: An Environmental History (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007), 377 pp., $62.05 (hbk), ISBN 978-1-85109-419-6. Christopher V. Hill, South Asia: An Environmental History (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2008), 329 pp., $84.99 (hbk), ISBN 978-1- 85109-925-2. These two volumes together present, in some 700 pages, a historically layered view of how the natural world in South and Southeast Asia has been transformed by human civilisation. But more than writing merely a history of the environment, the authors also examine the decisive impact environmental factors have had on world affairs and vice versa. This makes the two books, published in the Nature and Human Societies series (visit for a complete list of their titles) recommended background reading for scholars who find themselves uneasy with the widespread assumption that so-called ‘non-Western’ or ‘Oriental’ civilisations are eco-friendly and environmentally conscious, or at least more so than the practitioners of Abrahamic religions. These two histories provide a corrective to these ideas.


Campbell, Colin. 2007. The Easternization of the West: A Thematic Account of Cultural Change in the Modern Era (London: Paradigm Publishers).

Dove, Michael. 1999. ‘Writing for, Versus About, the Ethnographic Other: Issues of Engagement and Reflexivity in Working with a Tribal NGO in Indonesia’, Identities 6.2/3: 225-53.

Dove, Michael, Marina T. Campos, Andrew Salvador Mathews, Laura J. Meitzner Yoder, Anne Rademacher, Suk Bae Rhee, and Daniel Somers Smith. 2003. ‘The Global Mobilization of Environmental Concepts: Re-Thinking the Western/Non-Western Divide’, in Selin 2003: 19-46.

Kalland, Arne. 2003. ‘Environmentalism and Images of the Other’, in Selin 2003: 1-17.

Mahbubani, Kishore. 2008. The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East (New York: Public Affairs).

Nugteren, Albertina. 2005. Belief, Bounty, and Beauty: Rituals around Sacred Trees in India (Leiden/Boston: Brill).

———. 2009. ‘From Cosmos to Commodity…and Back. A Critique of Hindu Environmental Rhetoric in Educational Programs’, in Cathrien de Pater and Irene

Dankelman (eds.), Religions and Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education (Berlin: LIT Verlag): 159-68.

Pederson, Poul. 1995. ‘Nature, Religion and Cultural Identity: The Religious Environmentalist Paradigm’, in Arne Kalland (ed.), Asian Perceptions of Nature: A Critical Approach (Surrey: Curzon Press): 258-76.

Selin, Helaine (ed.). 2003. Nature across Cultures: Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures (Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers).



How to Cite

Nugteren, A. (2010). Reciprocal Relationship of Culture and Environment in Asia: Two Recent Environmental Histories of South and Southeast Asia. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 4(2), 239–248.