Abstract

This Mémoire Préliminaire de Thèse presents a historical overview, a literature review, research design and planned timeline for a dissertation on rural resistance to large-scale land acquisitions in Cambodia. At the outset, I embark on a descriptive historical overview of the current context of contestation against Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) in Cambodia, followed by a brief review of theoretical and empirical literature in political science and critical agrarian studies on rural social movements and resistance, indicating the lack of attention given to social cleavages in rural communities and the crucial role of the (neo-patrimonial) state especially at lower levels of governance. In the second part of the paper, I introduce an empirical puzzle, research questions and research design, for a comparative study of peasant resistance movements against ELCs in two provinces in Cambodia. By contextualizing the current political impasse in the political economy of Cambodia's democratic transition, I postulate that a sharper focus on patron-client relationships between the provincial governments, private companies and social cleavages at the village-level may further illuminate the processes and outcomes of rural political contention. I support my theoretical discussion with data gathered from household interviews and key informant interviews conducted in Cambodia during the summer of 2015. My research intends to contribute to a nascent body of political science research on resistance to the recent spate of large-scale land acquisitions 'from below' in South-East Asia."

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