I started out as an urban planner but found myself drawn towards the concepts of regions and regional development. The idea of a region varies a lot from one place to another, and it is often easier to grasp as a cultural reality than as an economic or physical entity. It is, of course, a geography produced from all of these aspects, and never clearly bound by lines on a map. To understand a region, you have to understand how people and things move in habitual ways, how far they go, how densely they connect places through their movement, and how all of this produces a living geography that people characterise in certain ways.
During my doctoral studies I became particularly interested in how regional development was being talked about in the context of mountainous and forested regions in India. These are usually seen as remote, poor and ‘backward’ and in need of development. I tried to understand how people in the Garhwal region of the Indian Himalayas considered the forests, their livelihoods in relation to forests and the movements of forest resources between their mountain villages, towns and cities beyond.
I’m also very interested in how people see forests and trees. There is a common saying in English – “so-and-so can’t see the forest for the trees” – which refers to someone who gets lost in detail and fails to see the bigger picture. But the opposite is equally true: people are sometimes so taken up by the bigger picture of a forest, that they “can’t see the trees in the forest”.
Here are some of my publications related to forests and regional change.
Rangan, H., Kull, C.A. and Alexander, L.V. 2010, Forest plantations, water availability, and regional climate change: Controversies surrounding Acacia mearnsii plantations in the upper Palnis Hills, southern India, Regional Environmental Change, 10: 103-117.
Kull, C.A., Tassin, J., and Rangan, H. 2007, Multifunctional, scrubby, and invasive forests? Wattles in the highlands of Madagascar, Mountain Research and Development 27: 224-231.
Rangan, H. 2004, From Chipko to Uttaranchal: development, environment, and social protest in the Garhwal Himalayas, India, in Liberation Ecologies, Second Revised Edition, eds. Richard Peet and Michael Watts, Routledge, London UK, pp. 205-226.
Rangan, H. 2000, State Economic Policies and Changing Regional Landscapes in the Uttarakhand Himalaya, 1818-1947, in Agrarian Environments: Resources, Representation and Rule in India, eds. A. Agrawal and K. Sivaramakrishnan, Duke University Press, Durham (NC), USA, pp. 23-46.
Rangan, H. 1997, Indian Environmentalism and the Question of the State: Problems and Prospects for Sustainable Development, Environment and Planning (A), 29: 2129-2143.
Rangan, H. 1997, Property vs. Control: The State and Forest Management in the Indian Himalaya, Development and Change, 28: 71-94.
Rangan, H. 1996, From Chipko to Uttaranchal: Development, Environment, and Social Protest in the Garhwal Himalayas, Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements, eds. R. Peet and M.J. Watts, Routledge, London, UK, pp. 205-226.
Rangan, H. 1995, Contested Boundaries: State Policies, Forest Classifications, and Deforestation in the Garhwal Himalayas, Antipode, 27: 343-362.
Rangan, H. 1993, Romancing the Environment: Popular Environmental Action in the Garhwal Himalayas, In Defense of Livelihoods: Comparative Studies in Environmental Action, eds. J. Friedmann and H. Rangan, Kumarian Press, Hartford (CT), USA, pp. 155-181.
Rangan, H. 2000, Of Myths and Movements: Rewriting Chipko into Himalayan History, Verso, London, UK, and Oxford University Press, Delhi, India.
Friedmann, J. and Rangan, H. eds. 1993, In Defense of Livelihood: Comparative Studies in Environmental Action, Kumarian Press, Hartford (CT), USA.