Tai Lands and Thailand
Community and State in Southeast Asia
edited by Andrew Walker
272 pp., 25 illustrations
Available from NIAS Press in Europe
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.
1. Introduction: Towards a modern Tai community (Andrew Walker)
2. The origins of “community” in Thailand (Craig Reynolds)
3. Thai border subversions: A critical examination of ’Tai communities’ (Nicholas Farrelly)
4. NGOs, self-sufficiency and the Thai political economy (James Haughton)
5. “Communal” sentiments: Belonging and the puutaa cult of southern Laos (Holly High)
6. The Abbott, the knickers and the son of the Buddha: A modern Thai community in rural Chiang Mai Province (Andrew Walker)
7. Belonging and modernity in the construction of the Dai youth identity in Xishuang Banna, China (Antonella Diana)
8. Transnational marginality and urban belonging: the Italian scooter in Laos (Warren Mayes)
9. Living within the state: district forestry officials in Nakai, central Laos (Sarinda Sing)
Andrew Walker is an anthropologist based in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University. He is currently working on rural modernisation and local politics in northern Thailand. He is author (with Tim Forsyth) of Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand (University of Washington Press, 2008). He also wrote The Legend of the Golden Boat: Regulation, Trade and Traders in the Borderlands of Thailand, Laos, Burma and China (Curzon Press, 1999). His blog, New Mandala, provides anecdote, analysis and new perspectives on mainland Southeast Asia.
Read Andrew Walker's blog New Mandala.
At the ICAS-AAS conference in Honolulu in March 2011, Andrew agreed that we film an interview with him about Tai Lands and Thailand. Here, he argues for a new understanding of ‘community’ in the Tai/Thai world.
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