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Producing Poverty and Prosperity in Southeast Asia: Methodological and Empirical Reflections

Thursday, September 5, 2019 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Part of the Ronald and Janette Gatty series

 Jonathan Rigg, Professor in The School of Geographical Sciences , University of Bristol 

Why has aggregate economic expansion in Southeast Asia so often been accompanied by individual and community decline? How do we explain the persistence of poverty in the context of growing wealth? These are all old questions, but they have not been adequately answered, let alone resolved; they remain pertinent and vital at national and individual levels. 

In this seminar, I bring together work from across Southeast Asia to argue that illuminating this puzzle requires that we go beyond explanations rooted in the political economy of inequality and instead pay attention, first, to academic questions of methodology and academic framing and, further, to empirical issues linked of trans-local relations and emergent articulations of deprivation. I do this by connecting land reclamation in Singapore with sand mining in coastal Cambodia, livestock-raising in peri-urban Hanoi with maize cultivation in upland Houaphan, isolation in Flores with integration in Luang Prabang, and vulnerable farming in Khon Kaen with precarious industrial work in Ayutthaya. Each of these pairings opens up a different view onto the issue of the co-production of wealth and poverty across the Southeast Asian region. 

Jonathan Rigg holds a professorship in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol in the UK. Until this year, he was Director of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. His research focuses on agrarian conditions and transformations in Asia, and since the early 1980s he has conducted fieldwork in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Over more than 30 years, he has worked on rice variety selection strategy, rural livelihoods, rural-urban relations, migration and mobility, disaster preparedness, and climate change resilience. This year he has published three books that reflect his interests: More than rural: textures of Thailand’s agrarian transformation (Hawaii University Press); People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Social Justice (edited with Lisa Reyes Mason) (Oxford University Press); and The Asian smallholder: transformation and persistence (edited with Eric Thompson and Jamie Gillen) (Amsterdam University Press). 


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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Southeast Asia Program, Development Sociology, Center for the Study of Inequality

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James Nagy

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Jonathan Rigg

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University of Bristol

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