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Abstract

In order to lift Laos out of its LDC status by 2020, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party has, since the 1990s, encouraged a capital-intensive development in the nation’s main comparative advantage, which is land. The agricultural, forestry and mining sectors have become the key targets of investments, in the form of land concessions. In a country where 80 per cent of its 6.9 million people were, in the mid-2000s, engaged in semi-subsistence agriculture, farmers’ livelihoods are an interesting microcosm where the intensity of concessions and overall agrarian change can be examined. Building upon concepts of agrarian transition, governmentality and modernity, the thesis joins anthropological concerns about the extent to which individuals can influence and/or resist economic and global technological changes. It follows people’s everyday lives as experienced in several villages in southern Laos. The ethnographic angle through the pages puts human agency at centre stage. It is, however, an agency that has less to do with resisting, but rather adapting in ad hoc, often mundane ways, to an environment where the uses and understandings of land, labour organisation, spiritual cosmologies, the home place, and family are being profoundly transformed, with clear implications for local livelihoods, and across social class, age and gender.

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