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Accepted Paper:

Learning from past migrations: the opportunities and anxieties of mobility among Tai Vat (Laos)  
Pierre Petit (Université libre de Bruxelles)

Paper short abstract:

The Tai Vat of Laos present their own history as an on-going succession of migrations. The paper analyses (1) the use of these narratives to frame the local debates on mobilities, especially of the youth; (2) the relation of these processes to issues of gender, generation, and imagined futures.

Paper long abstract:

The Tai Vat living in the mountainous areas of Houaphan (Laos) present themselves as « unsettled people », basing on a popular etymology of their ethnonym. Their ancestors came from Northeast Vietnam in the 19th century, fleeing the warfare engendered in the wake of the Taiping rebellion in China. The first Indochina War, in the early 1950s, triggered a new important wave of migration to Laos. At the end of the 20th century, Lao State policies sometimes urged, sometimes induced, resettlement to the lowlands. And for a decade now, youth leave massively the village to work in the capital city, Vientiane.

Based on a multisite ethnography (Vietnam/Laos, home place/lowland new settlements, villages/capital city), this paper will discuss two issues. The first one is the interconnection between those successive displacements, against the chronocentric focus on recent movements only. The current situation can only be grasped taking into account the theories Tai Dam have developed on their own peregrinations, where values of mobility and stability are both at stake. Accounts of yesteryear's migrations are used to discuss the current ones, and to gear today's familial/individual decisions to move or not. The second issue is the anthropological opportunity brought about by these movements to analyse the evolving relations between generations and between genders; the imaginations of, and aspirations to, modernity by youth and adults alike; and the promises and anxieties of inclusion into the national Lao space.

Panel P062
Moving Southeast Asia: circulations, mobilities, and their contemporary entanglements
  Session 1