Border Landscapes: The Politics of Akha Land Use in China and Thailandby Janet C. Sturgeon
In this comparative, interdisciplinary study based on extensive fieldwork as well as historical sources, Janet Sturgeon examines the different trajectories of landscape change and land use among communities that call themselves Akha (known as Hani in China) in contrasting political contexts. She shows how, over the last century, processes of state formation, construction of ethnic identity, and regional security concerns have contributed to very different outcomes for Akha and their forests in China and Thailand, with Chinese Akha functioning as citizens and grain producers, and Akha in Thailand being viewed as “non-Thai” forest destroyers.
Modern nation-states grapple with local power hierarchies on the periphery of the nation with varied outcomes. Citizenship in China helps Akha better protect a fluid set of livelihood practices that confer benefits on them and their forests. Denied such citizenship in Thailand, Akha are helpless when forests and other resources are ruthlessly claimed by the state. Drawing on current anthropological debates on the state in Southeast Asia and more generally on debates on property theory, states and minorities, and political ecology, Sturgeon shows how people live with continually negotiated boundaries—political, social, and ecological.
This pioneering comparison of resource access and land use among historically related peoples in two nation-states will be welcomed by scholars of geography, political ecology, environmental anthropology, ethnicity, and politics of state formation in East and Southeast Asia.
is assistant professor of geography at Simon Fraser University.
“This innovative, carefully researched, and strikingly designed study will make an important contribution to comparative legal and institutional histories of resource management on the one hand and the analysis of sovereignty on the frontiers of nation states on the other.”—James C. Scott, Yale University
“Border Landscapes is a wonderful, richly observed study where comparison is used to illuminate some difficult issues about ethnicity, politics, and the environment”—Nicholas K. Menzies, author of Forest and Land Management in Imperial China