Tai Lands and Thailand

Community and State in Southeast Asia

edited by Andrew Walker

272 pp., 25 illustrations
Available from NIAS Press in Europe




Paperback - 2009, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 049 2, £16.99


The Tai world spans much of mainland Southeast Asia, its largest groups being the Thai of Thailand, the Lao of Laos, the Shan of Burma and the Dai of southern China. Studies of this world often treat ‘state’ and ‘community’ as polar opposites: the state produces administrative uniformity and commercialization while community sustains tradition, local knowledge and subsistence economy. This assumption leads to the conclusion that the traditional community is undermined by the modern forces of state incorporation and market penetration. States rule and communities resist.

Tai Lands and Thailand takes a very different view. Using thematic and ethnographic studies from Thailand, Laos, Burma and southern China, its authors describe modern forms of community where state power intersects with markets, livelihoods and aspirations. Their aim is to liberate community from its stereotypical association with traditional village solidarity and to demonstrate that communal sentiments of belonging retain their salience in the modern world of occupational mobility, globalized consumerism and national development.

Andrew Walker has been working in mainland Southeast Asia since 1993 when he conducted PhD research on cross-border trading links between northern Thailand, northern Laos and southern China. For the past 10 years he has been working (and publishing widely) on issues of rural development, resource management and modernisation in northern Thailand. A fellow of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, he is the co-founder of the New Mandala blog, one of the world’s leading blogs discussing mainland Southeast Asia and required reading for all serious scholars of the region.

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