Publication Details

Gibson, C. & Warren, A. (2018). Unintentional path dependence: Australian guitar manufacturing, bunya pine and legacies of forestry decisions and resource stewardship. Australian Geographer, 49 (1), 61-80.


Australian guitar manufacturers are increasingly competitive globally, known for quality, design, and sustainability. Also distinguishing Australian guitar making is the use of native timbers¿a result of unforeseen historical endowments of available trees from earlier eras of colonial appropriation and State-sponsored planting. We develop a critical-materialist, and historical, evolutionary economic geography to trace an example of unintentional path dependence. Present craft-based manufacturing is linked to past regimes of resource stewardship. We illustrate this through the example of the bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii), an endemic tree with Indigenous significance now used industrially as a ¿tonewood¿ in guitar making. With limited geographic range, bunya was planted by State forestry during the inter-war period, considered ¿useful¿ in difficult locations where other industrial species failed. Reflecting prevailing stewardship norms, bunya trees were pruned and cared for, even though always considered marginal. Abandoned as an industrial forestry species, a half century later surviving cultivated bunya trees were rediscovered for guitar making. From this case, we argue that economic geographers remain attentive to material resource histories, as antecedent to contemporary configurations. Earlier decisions, ideologies and labour processes bestow present generations with available material resources, enabling new geographic concentrations of expertise. Acknowledging how historical materialities of resource stewardship reverberate unpredictably in the present, guitar makers and tonewood specialists are contemplating prospects for longer-term scarcities, and experimenting in anticipation of them now.



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