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The Making of Wealth and Poverty in Laos

18 April 2006, 12:00 PM
Presented by Jonathon Rigg, Geography, University of Durham, UK


As the Head of the Geography Department at the Durkham University, Jonathon Rigg’s research interests encompass, in broad terms, the problems, tensions and potentialities of development in the Southeast Asian region. This is based on a long-term commitment to the region dating back to 1980.

Initially his work had an agricultural focus. His PhD research, which included an extended period in Thailand based in the poor Northeastern region, examined the constraints that the environment placed on farmers as they attempted to increase production in this marginal area. The research resulted in a series of publications that sought to reappraise the role of the environment as a determining factor at a time when such views were out of vogue.

The work also, however, highlighted the declining role of agriculture in people’s lives and this led to two follow-up pieces of fieldwork. First, an examination of the role of migration and remittances in rural people’s livelihood strategies; and second, a return visit to the original research site where Dr. Rigg tracked down the subjects of the initial PhD fieldwork to appraise trajectories of change over the intervening years. A series of articles examining the deep-seated transformations that are occurring in rural areas of Southeast Asia resulted and an integrating book is due to be published at the end of 2000.

Another thread to Dr. Rigg’s research has been a continuing interest in the environment and, more particularly, in political ecology. This is reflected in an edited book and papers on such topics as dam construction, forest management, and the non-timber forest products. Rather more widely, Dr. Rigg’s work on rural areas of Southeast Asia has also spawned a number of subsidiary interests, all with an emphasis on contemporary development issues: on the role of NGOs in development; on languages of modernisation; and on exclusion, ethnicity, citizenship and nation building.