Envisioning tropical environments: Representations of peatlands in Malaysian media

Manzo, Kate and Padfield, Rory and Varkkey, Helena (2020) Envisioning tropical environments: Representations of peatlands in Malaysian media. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 3 (3). pp. 857-884. ISSN 2514-8486, DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848619880895.

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At a time of international debate about the value of tropical peatlands in Malaysia and Indonesia, this paper explores continuities and changes in colonial representations of peatlands over time. The principal aim is to understand how arguments for both development and conservation are framed and expressed in relation to wider narratives about the suitability or unsuitability of tropical peatlands for commercial development. Of particular interest is the ways in which scientific findings (both for and against peatlands development) are communicated in popular media. The substantive focus of the paper is Malaysian media; we undertake a qualitative content analysis of representations of tropical peatlands in English-language Malaysian media over a 20-year period. Close attention to a particular form of linguistic expression, namely textual metaphor, emerged from a combination of secondary reading and the evident presence of different metaphors within the data set itself. Informed by relevant studies, these are classified as ontological, cybernetic, organic and aquatic. As well as differences, we find similar metaphorical expressions criss-crossing lines of debate. Land container (ontological) metaphors that envision tropical peatlands as receptacles of economically valuable natural resources are by far the most common. We conclude that market-centred conservation is the principle alternative to mainstream, extractive development in Malaysia (as elsewhere). At a time when the value of peatlands is expressed mainly in terms of economic use and exchange value, the circulation of counternarratives that emphasise intrinsic and/or future value thus remain equally crucial.

Item Type: Article
Funders: None
Uncontrolled Keywords: Development; Conservation; Tropical peatlands; Malaysian media; Textual metaphor
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of International & Strategic Studies
Depositing User: Ms Zaharah Ramly
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2023 06:33
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2023 08:20
URI: http://eprints.um.edu.my/id/eprint/36450

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