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Vasile, Monica (2020): The Rise and Fall of a Timber Baron: Political Forests and Unruly Coalitions in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. In: Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Vol. 110, No. 6: pp. 1952-1968

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Concerns over deforestation are growing along with the climate crisis. This is particularly unsettling in relation to the rise of populist authoritarian regimes. In this article I reveal the connections between forests, neoliberalism, authoritarianism, and cronyism, through an in-depth ethnographic study of the Romanian Carpathian forests after the fall of socialism in 1989. The study examines the intricate entanglements between forest extraction, party politics, and informal territorial governance that emerged over the last thirty years. It argues that unruly coalitions shaped forest history. It focuses on the central figure of the timber baron, who ran businesses in connection with state office politics and maintained provincial authoritarian control over resources by tapping into paternalist dependencies of rural mountain dwellers. The article uses the analytic tools of political ecology and the conceptual framework developed by studies on resource frontiers and political forests combined with the anthropology of postsocialism. I draw on field research from 2004 to 2016, in which I collected data through systematic fieldwork, interviews, and surveys, complemented with official reports and media coverage. The article uses a narrative ethnographic writing approach.

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