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The Social Life of Teak

Tracing human interactions with the world’s most famous tropical timber species, The Social Life of Teak (September 2023, River Books, Bangkok & London) maps worlds revolving around teak forests, trees and wood.

What gives Tectona grandis such a powerful aura? How has it shaped people’s lives, driving fortunes and impacting futures? What has happened to the teak forests? What is their destiny?

In this illustrated anthology of oral histories, people connected personally or professionally to teak speak of survival, change and learning, creativity and destruction, growth and demise. Woven together, these experiences bring to light the ways that teak has been sought, crafted, cultivated, traded and valued over time.

Exploring teak’s significance highlights processes of consumption and commodification, inviting questions about our relationships with nature and the politics of value.

Animist beliefs, creative expression, scientific invention, economic viability, imperialist expansion, peak luxury, violent repression, ecological disaster and the regenerative power of nature all find a home in this global intergenerational tale.

Charting the domestication of wilderness and exposing the era of extinction of a feted natural resource, this book seeks to stimulate conversations about our role as nature’s most troublesome offspring.

About the speaker

Tim Webster is a documentary photographer and writer, who focuses on culture, environment and heritage issues. Previous publications include Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market Book (Thames & Hudson, 2017) and Yangon Echoes: Inside Heritage Homes with co-author Virginia Henderson (River Books, 2015)

Virginia Henderson is an independent scholar, facilitator and producer. She has a doctorate in heritage management and an MA in Thai Studies and is a trained oral historian. Her research interests include cultural expression, the power of storytelling, and the production of art and social space.


Thursday, 7 December 2023 at 19:00


Lecture Room, 4/Floor, The Siam Society


Members and Students (to undergraduate level) — Free of charge
Non-Members — THB 200

For more information, please contact

To book your place, please contact Khun Pinthip at 02 661 6470-3 ext 203 or

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