zum Inhalt springen



Frontier Entanglements in Laos

16 & 17 May 2024

Venue: Repräsentationssaal, Klosterstraße 79B, 50931 Köln

Organized by (in alphabetical order):
Michael Kleinod-Freudenberg, Molly McGrath, Rosalie Stolz & Oliver Tappe, Global South Studies Center (GSSC)

This workshop aims at bringing together scholars of different career stages whose work focuses on Laos. The conceptual lens we would like to suggest for this workshop is that of the frontier and of frontier entanglements. Laos has been aptly described as a “relational resource frontier” (Barney 2009) characterized by “land grabbing” (Kenney-Lazar 2018; McAllister 2015), forced displacements (Suhardiman 2022) and the specific workings of aspirations, capitalism and power. Those frontier dynamics are epitomized in the quasi-official “turning land into capital” policy (kan han thi din pen theun). In the aftermath of COVID-19, economic depression still holds Laos in a firm grip and impacts negatively on already pressing problems such as environmental degradation, economic and legal inequalities and precarious forms of labour migration. Yet frontier dynamics are variegated on the ground as they are mediated by locally specific configurations, so that the term frontier can be deployed to investigate the diversity of lifeworlds in multiethnic Laos more generally. In this workshop, “frontier” is therefore intended as methodological prism through which to approach Lao realities and to explore the messily entangled, multiscale complexities that contribute to reproducing, or undermining, frontier dynamics in Laos (and eventually beyond).


Thursday 16th of May

12:15 Introduction

12:45 Panel 1          Global China, Frontierization and Change in Northern Laos

Chair: Michael Kleinod-Freudenberg

  • Oliver Tappe (Universität Heidelberg) and Sandra Kurfürst (Universität zu Köln): Localizing global China in Laos and Vietnam – an introduction
  • Simon Rowedder (Universität Passau): From ‘fun’ adventures to ‘ordinary’ convenience: Local temporalities of infrastructural frontiers in northern Laos
  • Vanina Bouté (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris): Mountainous borderlands: Agrarian change, urbanization and new mobilities

14:15 Coffee Break

14:45 Panel 2           Performing Frontiers: Language, Sport and Dance

Chair: Michael Kleinod-Freudenberg

  • Nathan Badenoch (Villanova University, Villanova): Language in Laos as frontier participating online
  • Charles Zuckerman (Boston College, Chestnut Hill): From banned game to backyard sport: The rise and bifurcation of pétanque participating online
  • Roy Huijsmans (Erasmus University Rotterdam): The emerging contemporary dance scene in Laos: Of frontier and boundaries

16:15 Comments by Dan Smyer Yü (GSSC)

16:30 Plenary Discussion  - State of the Art of Lao Studies

19:00 Dinner

Friday 17th of May

9:00   Panel 3           Frontier Ecologies

Chair: Oliver Tappe

  • Keith Barney (Australian National University, Canberra): Exhausted frontier: tin mining in Laos’ Nam Pathene valley and the making of a national extractive sector (1900-2023) online only
  • Michael Kleinod-Freudenberg (independent scholar): The recreational frontier: ecotourism as world-ecological reproduction of humans and nonhumans
  • Paul-David Lutz (Université libre de Bruxelles): Ambivalent ‘eco-nostalgia’ among Khmu in northern Laos?

10:30 Coffee break

11:00 Panel 4          Concrete Frontiers

Chair: Michael Kleinod-Freudenberg

  • Rosalie Stolz (GSSC): An upland cement frontier? Architectures of frontier entanglements in northwestern Laos
  • Floramante SJ Ponce (Université libre de Bruxelles): Frantic frontiers at the interface between resettled villagers and new Chinese dams in northern Laos

12:00 Lunch

13:00 Panel 5         Frontiers of Valorization and Belief

Chair: Rosalie Stolz

  • Khannaphaphone Phakhounthong (Humboldt Universität Berlin): “In the past, the heart was bigger than the liver, but now the liver is bigger than the heart”
  • Pierre Petit (Université libre de Bruxelles): On the borderline of public religion: Lao devotional medals in context
  • Guido Sprenger (Universität Heidelberg): Buddhist temples and other foundations as unlimited gifts

14:30 Coffee break

15:00 Comments by Dan Smyer Yu

15:15 Final Discussion

Click here for Abstracts