Contesting Visions of the Lao Past

Lao Historiography at the Crossroads

edited by Christopher E. Goscha & Soren Ivarsson

355 pp., illustrated
NIAS Studies in Asian Topics # 32
Available from NIAS Press worldwide

Hardback - 2003, Available
ISBN 978 87 91114 02 1, £45.00

• First study to directly address the issue of Lao identity in histories of the formation of the modern state of Laos.
• The volume’s approach has applications and implications far beyond Laos.
• Christopher E. Goscha is “a scholar with an authoritative grasp of the relevant source materials” (South East Asian Research, 8:1, 2001) and has published several critically acclaimed studies on the rise and fall of French Indochina and its replacement by the independent states of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
• Søren Ivarsson has pioneered the study of Lao identity in the historical literature of the country.

While the birth of any nation is always more complicated than official historiographies purport, the complex positioning of Laos at the crossroads of a wide range of historical, geographical and cultural currents makes this particularly true. It is well known that Laos’ emergence as a modern nation-state in the 20th century owed much to a complex interplay of internal and external forces.

This book argues that the historiography of Laos needs also to be understood in this wider context. Not only do the contributors to this volume consider how the Lao have written their own nationalist and revolutionary history ‘on the inside’, they also examine how others – the French, Vietnamese, and Thais – have tried to write the history of Laos ‘from the outside’ for their own political ends. Rather than divorcing these two trends, this book demonstrates that they were inter-linked. Nationalist historiography, like the formation of the nation-state, did not emerge within a nationalist vacuum but was rather contested from the inside and the outside. The volume’s approach has applications and implications far beyond Laos and shows that studying small countries counts.

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