Challenges of Agrarian Transition in Southeast Asia (ChATSEA)
Supported by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) - Major Collaborative Research Initiatives (MCRI)
Partners: University of Montreal, York University, University of Laval, McGill University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Trent University and the University of British Columbia
Principal Investigator: Rodolphe de Koninck (University of Montreal)
Co-Investigator: Peter Vandergeest (York University)
Project Timeline: 2005 to 2011
The Challenges of Agrarian Transition in Southeast Asia project (ChATSEA) is a network of Canadian scholars working with researchers abroad on a large-scale research project to investigate and explain current processes of social and environmental change in Southeast Asia. The project was based at the University of Montréal and ran from 2005, ending in December 2010.
Several York University graduate students who conduct research on Southeast Asia have been supported by ChATSEA over the life of the project including: Shannon Arnold (MA, Environmental Studies); Keith Barney (Graduate Associate; Doctoral Candidate, Geography); Nga Dao (Graduate Associate; Doctoral Candidate, Geography), Vanessa Lamb (Graduate Associate; Doctoral Candidate, Geography); Sai Latt (MA, Geography), Adam Lukasiewicz (Graduate Associate; Doctoral Candidate, Geography), Thant Thuzar (MA, Geography) and Mary Young (PhD, Political Science). Melissa Marschke (Reaearch Associate, University of Ottawa) also held a ChATSEA post-doctoral position at York University before accepting her current position.
Project News >
Peter Vandergeest (Geography, York University) is co-editor of a recently released publication that poses a challenge to conventional understandings of how the countryside is being re-shaped, and to what effect. His co-editor is Jonathan Rigg (Durham University). Both also contributed a chapter to the book.
The book evolved from the experiences of researchers that participated in the ChATSEA project.
In Revisiting Agrarian Transformations, scholars of agrarian change return to sites of their earlier research in Southeast Asia to examine how the rapid pace of change in the countryside is affecting the places, spaces and people that they originally studied, sometimes as long as four decades ago. Each of the 14 core chapters is organized around a change that, based on broader trends, the authors did not anticipate: a new longhouse in Sarawak, the urban forests of Java, the assertion of an ethnic minority identity in Northern Thailand. the re-shaping of class relations and identities in the Philippines, and the uncontested sell-off of farmland to cacao entrepreneurs in Sulawesi.
YCAR Director Philip Kelly (Geography) and Melissa Marshcke (YCAR Research Associate, University of Ottawa) also contributed chapters.
In the final year of the project, Peter Vandergeest continued his work on the ChATSEA steering committee as well as on the editorial board of the project’s working paper series. He was also an organizing committee member for the final project conference. The international conference, “Revisiting Agrarian Transformations in Southeast Asia: Empirical, Theoretical and Applied Perspectives,” was held in May 2010 in Chiangmai, Thailand. He took the opportunity to conduct research at his field site when in Thailand for the conference.
Within ChATSEA, Professor Vandergeest has been active on two projects. The first focuses on alternative agriculture in Southeast Asia with Steffanie Scott (University of Waterloo) and Mary Young (Research Associate, YCAR). Professor Vandergeest co-organized one of the thematic panels at the final project conference on this theme. He co-authored a position paper with Scott and Young, and a book tentatively titled “Alternative Agriculture in Southeast Asia” is also forthcoming. In February 2011, he was invited to speak at alma mater Cornell University on this research. See below for further details on these project activities.
The second major project for Professor Vandergeest under the aegis of ChATSEA has been organizing 14 researchers to conduct restudies in the sites where they did PhD research (in most cases), and collect these into a volume that will be published by Singapore University. This is a collaborative project with Jonathan Rigg (Durham University). Professor Vandergeest is co-editor with Rigg, co-author of the first two introductory chapters as well as author of one of the restudy chapters.
Finally, he also organized, with Jefferson Fox (East West Center, Honolulu), two panels on agrarian change in Southeast Asia for the Association for Asian Studies conference in April 2011.
In addition to presenting his research in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. (see below), Keith Barney was an invited participant to an international workshop of the Global Futures Forum, organised by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). “Ownership, Vulnerability and Access: Security Dimensions of the Global Food System”was held in January 2011 in Ottawa.
Vanessa Lamb has spent the 2010.2011 academic year in Thailand conducting research for her doctoral thesis. From August 2010 to August 2011, she is an Affiliated Researcher at the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. She was also an invited participant at the Association of Asian Studies “Borders, Migration and Transnational Flows: Asia in Motion” Dissertation Workshop in March 2011 in Honolulu. The proposal she submitted was made possible by the preliminary fieldwork conducted in 2009 and supported by ChATSEA.
The following publications were published in 2010.2011 related to research for the ChATSEA project.
Barney, K. (Accepted). “Land, Livelihoods and Remittances: A Political Ecology of Youth Outmigration Across the Lao-Thai Mekong Border”. Critical Asian Studies.
Barney, K. and K. Canby (2011). “Scoping Baseline Information for the Mekong Region: Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT): Cambodia Report”. Washington D.C.: Forest Trends.
Barney, K. and K. Canby (2011). “Scoping Baseline Information for the Mekong Region: Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT): Lao PDR Report”. Washington D.C.: Forest Trends.
Dao, Nga (Forthcoming). “Damming Rivers in Vietnam: A Lesson Learned in the Tây Bắc (Northwest) Region”. The Journal for Vietnamese Studies.
Dao, Nga (2010). “Dam Development in Vietnam: The Evolution of Dam-induced Resettlement Policy”. Water Alternative 3(2): 324-340.
Dao, Nga (2010). “Rubber Plantation in Resettlement Sites: Opportunity or Challenge in Son La Province?” Hanoi: Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development.
Lazarus, K., N. Badenoch, Nga Dao and B.P. Resurreccion (eds.) (2011). “Water Rights and Social Justice in the Mekong Region”, third edition. Mekong Program on Water, Environment and Resilience. London: Earthscan.
Molnar, A., K. Barney, M. DeVito, A. Karsenty, D. Elson, M. Benavides, P. Tipula, C. Soria, P. Shearman and M. France (2011). “Large Acquisition of Rights on Forest Lands for Tropical Timber Concession and Commercial Wood Plantations.” Washington DC: Rights and Resources Initiative. Available at: www.rightsandresources.org/publication_details.php?publicationID=2242.
Rigg, J. and P. Vandergeest (Forthcoming). Revisiting Agrarian Transformations: Localities, State and Class in Rural Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press and Singapore: National University of Singapore Press.
Conference papers, presentations and invited talks by ChATSEA researchers in the past year include:
Dao, Nga (2010). “Dams and their Social Impacts in Northwest Vietnam: A Recent History and Critical Evaluation of Resettlement Policy”. Presentation at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., April.
Dao, Nga (2011). “Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Differentiation in Northern Uplands Vietnam”. Presentation at the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Conference, Honolulu, April.
Dao, Nga (2011). “Dam Development in Vietnam: Dispossession by Accumulation for Socialist Construction/Neoliberalism”. Presentation at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Seattle, April.
Barney, Keith (2010). “The Political Ecology of Cumulative Effects: Remaking Environmental Governance and Livelihoods through Resource Concessions in Lao PDR”.Invited talk at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, December 10.
Barney, Keith (2010). “The Politics of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and the Global Pulp and Paper Economy: Examining the Connections between China and Mekong Southeast Asia”. Invited talk at the Department of Geography Graduate Student Brownbag Lecture Series, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, December 10.
Barney, Keith (2010). “Land Concessions, Global Production Networks and Resource Geopolitics: Examining the Connections between China and Southeast Asia”. Invited talk at the China Environment Forum, Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. Washington D.C., October 20.
Lamb, Vanessa (2011). “Making Knowledge and Territory: Ecological Knowledge Productions on the Nu-Salween River”. Presentation at the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Conference, Honalulu, April. The paper is partly based on preliminary fieldwork carried out in 2009, supported by ChATSEA.
Vandergeest, Peter (2010). “Alternative Futures in Alternative Agriculture”. Presentation at the “Revisiting Agrarian Transformations in Southeast Asia: Empirical, Theoretical and Applied Perspectives” international conference. Chiangmai, Thailand, May 13-15.
Vandergeest, Peter (2010). Co-organizer of panel on “Alternative Futures in Alternative Agriculture” and on “Restudying Agrarian Transformations”. Panels at the “Revisiting Agrarian Transformations in Southeast Asia: Empirical, Theoretical and Applied Perspectives” international conference. Chiangmai, Thailand, May 13-15.
Vandergeest, Peter (2010). “New Green Revolutions in Thailand: What we can Learn from a Global South Perspective on Alternative Agriculture”. Invited talk in the Southeast Asia Program Lecture Series, Cornell University, February 17.
Several members of the research team presented at the workshop on Migration and Rural Change in Southeast Asia at the University of Toronto in late April 2009 and at the biennial conference of the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies (CCSEAS), held at the University of British Columbia in October 2009. The final project conference, 'Revisiting Agrarian Transformations in Southeast Asia: Empirical, Theoretical and Applied Perspectives,' will be held in May 2010 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Peter Vandergeest is a member of the organizing committee for the latter conference.
Peter Vandergeest was involved in two projects under the ChATSEA umbrella over the past year. The first is the restudy project, with Jonathan Rigg (Durham University), which involves about 15 researchers who have conducted restudies in sites where they did research earlier, with the time spans ranging from about 40 years to 10 years. Singapore University Press will publish a book comprised of short restudy papers, plus several chapters providing background and analysis written by Professor Vandergeest and Professor Rigg. They are currently reviewing chapter submissions by participants.
As part of this sub-project, Professor Vandergeest co-organized a session on 'Restudying Agrarian Transformations', which will be held at the final project conference. A restudy workshop was also held at the University of British Columbia in October 2009.
His work under the second project includes continued writing on a book (coauthored with Mary Young and Stephanie Scott) on New Green Revolutions in Southeast Asia, a study of the emergence, paths and futures of alternative agriculture. The three scholars also co-authored a chapter in Corporate Power and Global Agrifood Governance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009).
Professor Vandergeest presented his ChATSEA research, 'Is the Alternative Agriculture Movement Having Any Wider Impact? Observations in Southern Thailand' as part of a panel on “Trends in Organic and Alternative Agri-food Networks in Southeast Asia' that he co-organized for the October 2009 CCSEAS conference. He is organizing a second panel for the final project conference on 'Alternative Futures in Alternative Agriculture', which will bring together practitioners and academics to respond to the research and analysis of the team, and provide comments on the future of alternative agriculture.
In June 2009, Professor Vandergeest was invited to lecture on 'New Green Revolutions: Alternative Agriculture and Organic Food in a Global South Context' at the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Professor Vandergeest's other ChATSEA related activities in the past year included organizing a panel on 'Economic Crisis and Rural People in Southeast Asia' at the CCSEAS conference and the publication of a book, Politics of Decentralization: Natural Resource Management in Asia, co-edited with fellow ChATSEA researcher Chusak Wittayapak.
Several graduate researchers also participated in the ChATSEA dissertation workshop in B.C. in October 2009. Vanessa Lamb presented her summer 2009 research on 'Reconceptualizing the River: Salween as Site of Development, Conservation, Livelihood, Ethnicity and International Border' at this workshop and in a YCAR Graduate Student BrownBag research seminar at York University. Keith Barney presented 'State Control, Elite Consolidation, and Global Commodity Flows: Transboundary Formations and Forest Governance Failures in Southeast Asia.'
Mr. Barney hared his research on Laos at the University of Guelph and at a conference on 'Prosperity and Security: The Challenges of Uncertain Economic Times' organized by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, Public Safety Canada, and Export Development Canada, under the Global Futures Forum in November 2009 in Ottawa. He is also a member of the editorial board for the ChATSEA's working paper series.
Next year, Ms. Lamb will be based in Thailand conducting fieldwork on knowledge making and environmental governance along the Nu-Salween River.
Nga Dao was funded by the project to conduct fieldwork from June 2009 to March 2010 on dams and agrarian change in Vietnam. While in Hanoi, she did an archive search on ethnic minority policies of the Vietnamese state after 1954. She also collected secondary data and interviewed officers from Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Electricity of Vietnam. The data and interviews are related to water/river basin management and resettlement policies in Vietnam in general and policies on the Son La dam project in particular.
Ms. Dao also made a number of intensive trips to Son La province, especially to Muong La district and Muong Bu commune. She spent time in the two villages Pu Nhuong and Phieng Bung 1 for surveys and interviews (both based on questionnaires and in-depth interviews) as well as in other resettlement sites in Thuan Chau and Quynh Nhai districts, which provided a broader sense of resettlement process in Son La province. During her time in Vietnam, she coordinated with NGOs and academics working on water and resettlement issues in Vietnam and completed a ChATSEA working paper.
She is also a co-editor of the forthcoming MPOWER book on 'Rites of Access: Seeking Justice in Managing Mekong Region Water' and has submitted a draft paper for Water Alternative's special issue on dams.
Sakkarin Na Nan (Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University and YCAR Visiting Scholar in Winter 2010) has been conducting interviews with key informants and gathering data for a preliminary research paper for the project.
Mary Young presented a paper at the CCSEAS conference, 'Revisiting the Impact of Economic Crises on Indonesian Agro-food Production,' which discussed the impact of the Global Financial Crisis and global food crisis on the Indonesian agro-food sector, and compared Indonesia’s recent experiences with those of the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-1998). This paper was also submitted to Development in Practice and is currently under review. She is also writing a working paper on the historical development of food standards in Indonesia and is co-author of a chapter in Corporate Power and Global Agrifood Governance (2010) and in the forthcoming New Green Revolutions in Southeast Asia.
Publications by team researchers in 2009-2010 include:
Baird, I.G., K. Barney, P. Vandergeest and B. Shoemaker (2009). "Reading Too Much into Aspirations: More Explorations of the Space between Coerced and
Voluntary Resettlement in Laos". Critical Asian Studies 41(4): 605-614.
Barney, K. (2009) "Laos and the Making of a ‘Relational’ Resource Frontier".Geographical Journal 175 (2): 146-159.
Dwyer, M. and K. Barney (2009). "Apprentice Nationalists". Book Review of Soren
Ivarsson (2008) Creating Laos: The Making of a Lao Space Between Indochina and
Siam, 1860-1945 (Copenhagen: Nias Press). Asia-Pacific Viewpoint 50(2): 247-249.
Scott, Steffanie, Peter Vandergeest and Mary Young (2010). "Certification Standards and the Governance of Green Foods in Southeast Asia", 61-92. In J. Clapp and D. Fuchs (eds.) Corporate Power and Global Agrifood Governance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Vandergeest, Peter, Steffanie Scott and Mary Young (Forthcoming). New Green Revolutions in Southeast Asia.
Vandergeest, Peter and Chusak Wittayapak (2009). Politics of Decentralization: Natural Resource Management in Asia. Chiang Mai: Mekong Press.
Keith Barney was co-organizer for the ChATSEA Los Banos Dissertation Workshop, held in Laguna, Philippines from 30 May to 1 June 2008. He also served on the editorial board for the ChATSEA Working Paper series.
Nga Dao was funded by the project to conduct fieldwork in summer 2008 on dams and agrarian change in Vietnam.