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Gatty Lecture, Erin Lin, "How War Changes Land"

Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 12:00pm

Warren Hall, 401

Erin Lin, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Ohio State University

How War Changes Land: The Legacy of US Bombing on Cambodian Development

Why do post-conflict communities vary substantially in the speed and consistency with which they re-establish order and growth following war? In this book, I develop a theory of whether and where agrarian communities will recover from war based on the amount of unexploded ordnance left on their land and the consequential long-term impact on rice production, migration patterns, and local institutions. The previous chapter, “How War Changes Land: the impact of US bombing on Cambodian local development,” discussed the role of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on the agricultural activities of Cambodian rice farmers. Because fertile ground provides more of a cushion for the bomb upon impact, the trigger fuse is less likely to detonate on these lands, making the most productive lands the most dangerous to farm. Using a dataset of declassified US Air Force records and an agricultural survey of over 3,600 rice paddies across Cambodia, I show that in highly fertile soil, this mechanical failure still poses risk from the unexploded ordnance, and farmers are deterred from efficiently using their land. This chapter examines the differing groups who live on post-conflict land and why they choose these lands, given the high risk of injury and the low returns on farming. Based on one month of fieldwork in a heavily-contaminated Cambodian commune near the Vietnam border, I identify the three groups of internal migrants who comprise the local population today. These groups include Laos and Tumpuon minorities who are returning to their homes after the Khmer Rouge genocide, Khmer ex-combatants from the Khmer Rouge seeking new land, and recent Khmer economic migrants hoping to buy land after the construction of the new road. Each group expressed differing perceptions of risk, however, these perceptions do not necessarily correspond to where risk is greatest. I conclude that adaptive strategies and risk perception vary depending on each group’s history of violence, social connectedness, and economic security.

Co-sponsored by the Departments of Government and Development Sociology.

Lunch will be provided.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Government, Southeast Asia Program



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James Nagy

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Erin Lin

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Department of Political Science, Ohio State University

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