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Durham e-Theses
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Living under the Rubber Boom:
Market Integration and Agrarian Transformations in the Lao Uplands

LA-ORNGPLEW, WASANA (2012) Living under the Rubber Boom:
Market Integration and Agrarian Transformations in the Lao Uplands.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis investigates market integration and agrarian transformations in the uplands of the Lao PDR through the lens of the rubber ’boom’. The study addresses the processes and consequences of rubber expansion on upland spaces and populations. The thesis draws on fieldwork undertaken in four upland communities in Luang Namtha province in the north-western Lao PDR. The chosen study settlements are different in the levels of market and spatial integration as well as in the form that rubber investment takes. Through employing a mixed-method approach (household surveys and in-depth interviews), the study shows how various actors (market forces and market actors, the transnational and domestic states, state personnel, and uplanders themselves) and conditions (the histories of village settlement and agricultural land access, levels of market and geographical connections, and relations between uplanders and the state and state personnel) have influenced the ways in which rubber has expanded into these upland communities. The study, while recording some particularities of agrarian transformations among the four settlements, also highlights some commonalities. These similarities include: i) changes to the upland economy and land use from semi-subsistence to market-oriented production, ii) transformation of land rights and control from collective to private and quasi-private systems, and iii) increasing risks to the sustainability of upland livelihoods, especially for those who were formerly highly reliant on shifting agriculture. The findings of this study contribute to the existing literature and debates about agrarian transformations in Southeast Asia, the nature of global land grabs, the roles of different actors in shaping agrarian processes, and the evolving place of the state in a time of globalisation. Taken together, the thesis provides a better understanding on the processes of market integration in the frontiers of the ‘reforming’ Lao PDR.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Agrarian transformations, rubber expansion, market integration, small farmers, Lao uplands, the Lao PDR,
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Jan 2013 10:05

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