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Session A6
Wilson’s Hope: Or, How to Govern “the Finest Forests of Eastern Asia”
洪廣冀 Kuang-Chi Hung
Department of Geography, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

In the 1920s, after an extensive collecting trip to Taiwan, then the colony of the 
Japanese empire, the famous plant hunter Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930) remarked 
in an article that in Taiwan's mountains was the "finest forest in East Asia," and that 
“[p]reserved from the utilitarian Chinese by the head-hunting custom of the aboriginal 
population, it is sincerely to be hoped that these forests may not be destroyed by the 
progressive Japanese." This essay seeks to unveil the extent to which Wilson's hope 
materialized. I begin my analysis with a review of political ecology of scientific 
forestry through a lens of science and technology studies (STS). I argue that although 
it is more productive to conceptualize scientific forestry as a translocal assemblage, 
the term "translocal" can hardly grapple with an assemblage's fluidity. Of importance 
is that "translocal assemblage" only reveals where heterogeneous elements that 
constitute an assemblage come from, with little attention paid to the means by which 
elements transit among locales, let alone changes which the elements must have 
undergone in transit. With this revision set forth, this essay traces the courses through 
which scientific forestry got assembled, destabilized, displaced, and resembled in 
Japan and Taiwan, respectively. Finally, I relate my findings to a series of efforts 
made by the Taiwanese government to deal with indigenous justice, showing why a 
historical geography of scientific knowledge matters in such efforts not only in 
Taiwan in particular but also in the Global South in general.

Keywords: political ecology, science and technology studies, translocal assemblage, 
scientific forestry, Japanese empire, Taiwan