"To be faithful is to be Karen": deconstructing narratives of the precarious Karen migrant in Thailand
Justine Chambers (Australian National University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper considers how the pursuit of so-called precarious employment opportunities in Thailand offers Karen children from Myanmar the ability to keep '"faithful" and maintain cultural continuity.
Paper long abstract:
Decades of civil conflict, economic crisis and the state's failure to invest in education means that Thailand has offered one of the only economic lifelines for many Karen families in southeastern Myanmar. What is known locally in Hpa-an as 'the age of Thailand' parent-child relations, gender roles and responsibilities have been reshaped significantly in the last three decades as a result of high rates of migration. Much of the literature that explores the lives of Plong Karen migrant communities in Thailand highlights their experiences of exploitation and marginalisation - the ultimate figures of neo-liberal modernity. By focusing on the way Plong Karen men and women view their own experience of migration as one of keeping 'faithful' ('thout kyar oh') to their families and community more broadly, this paper seeks to deconstruct narratives of the precarious Karen migrant. In drawing attention to contestation and friction between different regimes of value within Plong Karen people's lives, this paper considers how the pursuit of so-called precarious employment opportunities in Thailand offers Plong Karen children the ability to keep 'thout kyar oh' and maintain cultural continuity.
Visions beyond precarity: envisaging and practicing alternatives to neo-liberal modernity