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July 1999 Issue
The Geographical Review
July 1999, Vol. 89 (3), pp. 343-363
SETTIN' THE WOODS ON FIRE: RURAL INCENDIARISM AS PROTEST
Keywords: fire, land tenure, peasant revolt, political ecology.
Fire is a fundamental tool within a broad spectrum of vegetation-management strategies, from swidden agriculture to plantation forestry. Through the seemingly pyromanic activity of incendiarism, fire assumes additional significance in the human-environment relationship. Case studies from England, Algeria, and the southern United States serve to illustrate the circumstance of fire as an indication of agrarian discontent and a weapon of peasant resistance. Other documented cases of incendiarism reveal that use of fire in the landscape has expanded from a constructive ecosystem-manipulation technique to a destructive form of protest undertaken by the oppressed or disempowered.