Moving Mountains
256 pages, 6 x 9
15 b&w photographs, 16 maps, 6 graphs & tables
Release Date:01 Dec 2011
Release Date:10 Nov 2010
Release Date:01 Jan 2011

Moving Mountains

Ethnicity and Livelihoods in Highland China, Vietnam, and Laos

UBC Press

The mountainous borderlands of socialist China, Vietnam, and Laos are home to some seventy million people, representing an astonishing array of ethnic diversity. How are these peoples fashioning livelihoods now that their homeland is open to economic investment and political change?

Moving Mountains presents the work of anthropologists, geographers, and political economists with first-hand experience in the Southeast Asian Massif. Together, they show that the parallel experiences of ethnic minorities in these three socialist regimes offer a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of ethnicity, livelihood, and state-society relations. Case studies on groups such as the Drung in Yunnan, the Khmu in Laos, and the Hmong in Vietnam document the experiences of such minorities under socialist regimes and how their lives are changing under more open political and economic conditions.

Although scholars have typically represented highland people as marginalized and powerless, Moving Mountains argues that they draw on culture and ethnicity to indigenize modernity and maintain their livelihoods. This unprecedented glimpse into a poorly understood region shows that development initiatives must be built on strong knowledge of local cultures in order to have lasting effect.

This book will interest students and teachers of China Studies and Southeast Asian Studies, as well as activists and policy makers who want a fuller understanding of the links between poverty, ethnicity, political change, and international development.

This expertly edited and unusually coherent collection of enlightening essays on livelihoods and cultural identities in the post-socialist situations of China, Vietnam and Laos, adds usefully to the emerging literature on the borderlands of what the editors call the ‘Southeast Asian Massif’...this well-edited book is an argument for and demonstration of the value of good ethnography in the developmental context and as such it deserves to be very widely read. Nicholas Tapp, East China Normal University, Shanghai, Professor Emeritus, Australian National University, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
… this book is much more than a collection of individually interesting case study chapters. There is an argument that weaves its way through the text. After an intriguing foreword from Terry McGee where he connects his interest in urban change with the book’s concern with highland change, there are eight core chapters bookended by a substantial introduction from the editors, editors, and a rather briefer conclusion. Jonathan Rigg, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, June 2013
Moving Mountains provides a timely and rich series of highly interesting discussions of the interplay between livelihood and ethnicity on the margins of modern Asian states and especially on the historical agency of the resourceful but hard-pressed peoples of these mountains. This volume is especially important given recent changes engulfing the region, including globalization and the rapid expansion of Chinese state and commercial power. It should enjoy a wide readership amongst scholars interested in Asian cultures, and will be very useful in courses on all these topics. Magnus Fiskesjö, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University
Moving Mountains manages the rare feat of bringing together a fine-tooth comb ethnography of upland peoples on the one hand with a theoretical and conceptual subtlety about the reach and limits of state power on the other. It becomes, on the spot, the indispensable source for understanding the socialist margins of Southeast Asia. James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University

Jean Michaud is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Université Laval. Tim Forsyth is a reader in environment and development at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Contributors: Steeve Daviau, Olivier Évrard, Tim Forsyth, Stéphane Gros, Terry McGee, John McKinnon, Marie Mellac, Jean Michaud, Janet C. Sturgeon, Margaret Byrne Swain, Claire Tugault-Lafleur, and Sarah Turner


Foreword / Terry McGee


1 Rethinking the Relationships between Livelihoods and Ethnicity in Highland China, Vietnam, and Laos / Tim Forsyth and Jean Michaud

2 Economic Marginalization and Social Identity among the Drung People of Northwest Yunnan / Stéphane Gros

3 Integration of a Lineage Society on the Laos-Vietnam Border / Steeve Daviau

4 Oral Histories of Livelihoods and Migration under Socialism and Post-Socialism among the Khmu of Northern Laos / Olivier Évrard

5 Of Rice and Spice: Hmong Livelihood and Diversification in the Northern Vietnam Uplands / Claire Tugault-Lafleur and Sarah Turner

6 Hani Agency and Ways of Seeing Environmental Change on the China-Vietnam Border / John McKinnon

7 Land Reform and Changing Identities in Two Tai-Speaking Districts in Northern Vietnam / Marie Mellac

8 Commoditized Ethnicity for Tourism Development in Yunnan / Margaret Byrne Swain

9 Rubber Transformations: Post-Socialist Livelihoods and Identities for Akha and Tai Lue Farmers in Xishuangbanna, China / Janet C. Sturgeon

10 Conclusion: Lesson for the Future / Jean Michaud



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