Creating Laos

The Making of a Lao Space between Indochina and Siam, 1860-1945

by Søren Ivarsson

  • Published:
  • Pages: 250 pp.
  • 11 figures
  • Series number: 112
Available from NIAS Press worldwide

This book examines the uncertain process through which a specific idea about a separate ‘Lao space’ and its culture was formed and Laos came into existence under French colonial rule. Here, Laos’s position at the intersection of two conflicting spatial layouts of ‘Thailand’ and ‘Indochina’ made its national form a particularly contested process.

The existence of Laos today is taken for granted. But the crystallization of a Lao national idea and ultimate independence for the country was a long and uncertain process.

This book examines the process through which Laos came into existence under French colonial rule through to the end of World War II. Rather than assuming that the Laos we see today was an historical given, the book looks at how Laos’s position at the intersection of two conflicting spatial layouts of ‘Thailand’ and ‘Indochina’ made its national form a particularly contested process.


This, however, is not an analysis of nation-building from the perspec-tive of administrative and political structures. Rather, the book charts the emergence of a notion of a specifically Lao cultural identity that served to buttress Laos as a separate ‘Lao space’, both in relation to Siam/Thailand and within French Indochina.


Based on an impressive variety of primary sources, many of them never before used in studies of Lao nationalism, this book makes a significant contribution to Lao historical studies and to the study of nation-building in Southeast Asia.

 

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Søren Ivarsson is an associate professor in the Department of History, University of Copenhagen. Well versed in the histories of Laos and Thailand, he is particularly interested in nationalism, state formation and historiography in these countries. His monograph, Creating Laos, was published by NIAS Press in 2008 and has attracted much acclaim.

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by Oliver Tappe
From journal:
Internationales Asienforum vol. 40, November 2009, 3-4/09

Creating Laos is a fascinating read for anyone interested in nationalism and the processes of creating nationhood.  Laos provides a good example for the development of an unspecified space into a more or less clrearly defined nation – far from self-evident, but remarkably stable.  Dr.

Creating Laos is a fascinating read for anyone interested in nationalism and the processes of creating nationhood.  Laos provides a good example for the development of an unspecified space into a more or less clrearly defined nation – far from self-evident, but remarkably stable.  Dr. Ivarsson’s work must be considered a major contribution to the understanding of modern Southeast Asian history.

by Brooke Schedneck
From journal:
Eras

…this book is successful in its aims to present a history of the discourse of the idea of Laos and Lao cultural and national identity.  …[it] is an excellent resource for anyone interested in this little-studied nation. 

…this book is successful in its aims to present a history of the discourse of the idea of Laos and Lao cultural and national identity.  …[it] is an excellent resource for anyone interested in this little-studied nation. 

by Bertil Lintner
From journal:
Far Eastern Economic Review

Mr. Ivarsson’s study of the Lao example gives fascinating insight into how nations can be created – and even succeed as such.  …a brilliant study of how a once undefined "space" eventually became a nation.

Mr. Ivarsson’s study of the Lao example gives fascinating insight into how nations can be created – and even succeed as such.  …a brilliant study of how a once undefined "space" eventually became a nation.

by Volker Grabowsky
From journal:
Aséanie (24), 2009

 [A “ground-breaking study”, the] book provides a fascinating account of how the notion of Laos-ness was created through the cultural policies of the French colonialists and the endeavours of the Lao elite.

 [A “ground-breaking study”, the] book provides a fascinating account of how the notion of Laos-ness was created through the cultural policies of the French colonialists and the endeavours of the Lao elite. … Creating Laos is an original study of the birth of the Lao nation and the creation of its “geo-body.” This fascinating book is recommended to readers interested in the origins and development of nations in Southeast Asia and worldwide.

by Prof. Christopher E. Goscha, Université du Québec à Montréal
From journal:
South East Asia Research

 [W]hile Ivarsson could have been content to go to the trendy conclusion that Laos was a simple ‘creation’ of the colonial West, his in-depth knowledge of Laos, of the Lao and of t

 [W]hile Ivarsson could have been content to go to the trendy conclusion that Laos was a simple ‘creation’ of the colonial West, his in-depth knowledge of Laos, of the Lao and of their language allows him to accord agency to the Lao themselves in the making of their nation. Ivarsson’s study is a fascinating read and one of the most important and sophisticated books on modern Laos to have been published in the last 30 or so years. […] Ivarsson has clearly produced an innovative,intelligently crafted and provocative book.

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