Tai Lands and Thailand

Community and State in Southeast Asia

edited by Andrew Walker

Available from NIAS Press in Europe
ISBN Paperback: 978 87 7694 049 2, £16.99 ()

Studies of the Tai 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. Tai Lands and Thailand takes a very different view, aiming to liberate community from its stereotypical associations.

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.

author image not supplied

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.

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.

Go to author page

by Nicholas Tapp, Australian National University & East China Normal University
From journal:
The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 12, No. 3, June 2011

"Overall this is an exciting and stimulating contribution to Thai studies and anthropological debate in general on the nature of modern communities, their emergence, their relations with states, and how the many images of them are deployed to varying strategic ends.

"Overall this is an exciting and stimulating contribution to Thai studies and anthropological debate in general on the nature of modern communities, their emergence, their relations with states, and how the many images of them are deployed to varying strategic ends.

…there is no doubt that this collection should be read with great interest by all those with a concern in current Thai debates and more general analyses of the ‘rural sector’ in Southeast Asia."

by Ian G. Baird, University of Wisconsin
From journal:
Pacific Affairs, Vol. 84, No. 2, June 2011

"Overall, this volume is well worth reading, and I highly recommend it."

"Overall, this volume is well worth reading, and I highly recommend it."

by Mikael Gravers
From journal:
Anthropos, Vol. 107, No. 2, 2012

 "This book revives and renews an anthropological discussion about village and community in Thai/Tai society…  This publication is an important critical contribution to the debate and takes the concept into the recent focus on transnational Tai research.

… A valuable contribution to the discussion of the community concept as well as to Tai studies."

 "This book revives and renews an anthropological discussion about village and community in Thai/Tai society…  This publication is an important critical contribution to the debate and takes the concept into the recent focus on transnational Tai research.

… A valuable contribution to the discussion of the community concept as well as to Tai studies."

by John Hartmann, Northern Illinois University
From journal:
The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 71, No. 1, Feb 2012

 "This is an enjoyable book, excellent for students of anthropology and political science, critical for NGO and development workers, and perfect for an enlightened understanding of contemporary mainland -especially Buddhist- Southeast Asia.  The articles are fluent; the bilbiography is comprehensive, and the index is useful."

 "This is an enjoyable book, excellent for students of anthropology and political science, critical for NGO and development workers, and perfect for an enlightened understanding of contemporary mainland -especially Buddhist- Southeast Asia.  The articles are fluent; the bilbiography is comprehensive, and the index is useful."

by Geoffrey C. Gunn
From journal:
Asian Affairs, July 2011

"Undoubtedly, Walker has assembled a sparkling set of essays…  Especially, we appreciate the gems of fieldwork from distant parts of Laos by a first generation of scholars to penetrate this land since the hiatus of war left it pretty much closed to the outside world.  Recommended for any scholar working in the broad area of Tai studies."

"Undoubtedly, Walker has assembled a sparkling set of essays…  Especially, we appreciate the gems of fieldwork from distant parts of Laos by a first generation of scholars to penetrate this land since the hiatus of war left it pretty much closed to the outside world.  Recommended for any scholar working in the broad area of Tai studies."

by Ronald D. Renard
From journal:
Aséanie (24), 2009

This collection demonstrates the new research being conducted following the breakdown of national borders that began in the 1980s. The mostly young contributors were able to carry out research on diverse topics, sometimes in out-of-the-way places, that was impossible two decades ago.

This collection demonstrates the new research being conducted following the breakdown of national borders that began in the 1980s. The mostly young contributors were able to carry out research on diverse topics, sometimes in out-of-the-way places, that was impossible two decades ago.

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