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Home » Slow Violence and Water (in)justice: Feminist Political Ecologies of Intergenerational Struggles in the Mekong Region

Slow Violence and Water (in)justice: Feminist Political Ecologies of Intergenerational Struggles in the Mekong Region

Drone footage | Overhead shots of people in the water during Songkran keang sa phue festival

แก่งสะพือโผล่ - Kaeng Saphue Phuek

Continuation of the drone footage during Songkran keang sa phue festival

Principal Investigator: Nga Dao (Social Science)

Co-Directors: Hue Le (Vietnam National University); Vanessa Lamb (Social Science)

Research Team:

  • Lan Nguyen (Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development)
  • Sompong Viengchan (Committee of the Life and Communities of the Mun Basin Group)
  • Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla (Community Resource Centre Foundation)
  • Bernadette Resurreccion Sayo (Queen’s University)
  • Kanokwan Manorom (Ubon Ratchathani University)
  • Hong Quang Nguyen (Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology)

Partner Organizations:

  • Centre for Water Resources Conservation and Development, Vietnam
  • Community Resources Center Foundation, Thailand
  • Mekong Sub-region Social Research Center (MSSRC), Thailand
  • Queen's University, Canada
  • VNU-Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, Vietnam
  • York University, Canada

Funder: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

The team of researchers and partner organizations from Vietnam, Thailand and Canada are exploring the processes, benefits and uneven impacts and benefits of transformations in Southeast Asia's Mekong Region as a type of "slow violence" that emphasizes time and generation in analysis.

Project Summary

Since the 1980s, Southeast Asia's Mekong Region has seen a radical transformation from "battlefields to marketplaces" that heralded regional development and economic benefits. Yet, for many who rely on the transboundary Mekong, a river that supports an estimated 300 million people, the region's transformation meant not only a loss of biodiversity but also the gradual decimation and displacement of a way of life and making a living over generations. In other words, the impacts and benefits of this transformation are not evenly distributed, and for some, mean persistent but silent, generational, and cumulative experiences of marginalization and impoverishment. In this project, we propose examining these processes and uneven impacts as a type of "slow violence" that emphasizes time and generation in analysis. Slow violence refers to "a

violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is not typically viewed as violence at all" (Nixon 2011, 2). Our study will unravel the workings of slow violence, a violence that is often overlooked, through research and analysis on the persistent but difficult-to-detect impacts of development-induced displacement and accumulation of environmental impacts on Mekong communities that span generations. We propose doing so by developing a novel framework that brings together slow violence with feminist political ecology as a way to understand the heterogeneous and multifaceted impacts of development and violence across space and time. This is important in the context of development along the Mekong River because more typically, inability to benefit from economic development is considered in relation to

discrete projects or governments, rather than in relation to enduring legacies of violence, colonialism, and displacement that span generations and that are disproportionately born by marginalized groups. Such an oversight also means conceptually and practically that the negative impacts are more easily overshadowed by real or perceived economic gains. Thus, we aim to

provide new insights into the uneven impacts, responses and struggles across time and space, and to do so we will work with co-researchers who bear the brunt of these impacts.

A core strength of the project is the equitable partnership involving four universities and two non-academic organizations in Canada and Southeast Asia with extensive experience and shared commitment to knowledge co-production and advancing water rights and social justice in the Mekong Region. Our shared commitments are reflected in the project plan for research,

training, and knowledge mobilization. Research collaboration is organized under 3 knowledge clusters, with each group led by co-applicants and inclusive of non-academic partners and students. The team of 9 leading researchers, 8 graduate students, and 6 partner organizations will work with marginalized community members as co-researchers, using methods such as

photovoice that embrace nuance and complexity to highlight the otherwise "invisible" slow violence and its uneven impacts.

Knowledge mobilization will also be co-produced between academic and non-academics. Research will be published in top academic journals as well as policy briefs and websites. Academic audiences will be engaged at 4 academic conferences, including Canadian Council for Southeast Asia Studies; students will be trained by senior researchers, a valuable opportunity

for student mentoring in a new research area. Relying on existing networks in the region, the project will engage a diverse range of stakeholders via policy dialogues and seminars and will culminate with photo exhibitions and meetings hosted by partners in Southeast Asia.

For more information:

In the field in Vietnam for the Slow Violence project, May 2024. Photograph by Nga Dao.
In the field in Vietnam for the Slow Violence project, May 2024. Photograph by Nga Dao.
In the field in Vietnam for the Slow Violence project, May 2024. Photograph by Nga Dao.

Photographs by project members at field sites across Thailand and Vietnam. Used with permission.

Member Bios

Kamol is currently the secretary of the Media for Happiness Foundation and an executive of a civil society media organization. He is also an academic, activist and community public communicator, skilled in using communication tools, including traditional media (television, radio, newspapers) and new media (social media), for the benefit of community development.

Currently, he is studying for a doctorate in social science and development at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University. His dissertation is entitled, “Communication through Dialogue as an Everyday Practice: A Case Study of the Ubon Ratchathani Floodway.”

He has a Master of Arts degree in Social Development from Kasetsart University (Bang Khen) and has tken a short-term English course at Arkansas University. Kamol has also worked in project management for television and is a producer and host (2020–). He is also head of the Cofact Esan Good Media Project Anti Fakenews (2023–)

Photo provided by K. Homklin

Thawat is a lecturer in the Social Development Innovation Program at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University (2003–). He is also a doctoral candidate in Social Science and Development in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University. His dissertation is entitled, “From Communism to Thai Nation Development Cooperators: Struggle and Negotiation Through Slow Violence: A Case Study of Land Rights and Compensation Claims in the Northeastern Region of Thailand.”

He holds bachelor and master’s degrees in Social Development. He worked as a research assistant at the Social Research Institute, Chiang Mai University (1994–1998), focusing on issues such as living with HIV/AIDS, traditional medicine, and community and network strengthening. He worked on poverty eradiation research project in Amnat Charoen Province of Thailand.

Photo provided by T. Maneephong

Since 2009, Walailuk has been a Senior Citizen Media Network Development Officer at Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS).

Currently, she is pursuing her master's degree in Social Sciences and Development from the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Ubon Ratchathani University. Her thesis is titled “Local Public Communication for Disaster Resilience: A Case Study of Flood Problems in Ubon Ratchathani Province.”

She holds a bachelor's degree in Communication Arts (TV-Radio) from Mahasarakham University. At Thai PBS, she has coordinated the production of children and youth

programs, including Nature Spy Programs. She has produced documentary programs such as TEE NEE BANRAO, Localist, and citizen dialogue programs. She has connected with the citizen media network in the northeastern region of Thailand to create a public media ecosystem and has collaborated with community media, local media, universities and entrepreneurs.

Photo provided by W. Chomnonsoong

Dr. Hue Le is senior researcher and lecturer at Vietnam National University Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (VNU-CRES) in Hanoi. Dr. Le’s research focuses on natural resource management, land tenure, and gender and climate change. Her scholarship examines the differentiating effects of macro policy and how social differentiation and power relations affect the way in which different classes of people use the resources and income that each class earns from forest-related resources. She has published numerous books and articles in international journals.

Photo provided by H. Le

Ly Thi Ha Bui is Senior Researcher at the Vietnam National University Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (VNU-CRES), Hanoi. She has been involved in numerous research and development projects covering different topics such as environmental conservation, sustainable development, and community resilience. Those projects have been funded by esteemed donors such as UKRI (Great Britain), IDRC (Canada), and by different ministries in Vietnam. Ly has extensive experience in working with local authorities, communities and civic organizations as well as in management of various project types. She is familiar with conducting social science research using a diverse range of research tools, including key informant interviews, focus group discussions, participatory mapping, counter-mapping, story-telling, household interviews and photovoice, all of which have provided invaluable insights into causes of environmental degradation and water pollution, and how collective action can take place to resolve those issues and contribute to sustainable development at the local level.

Ly Thi Ha Bui headshot image