Presented as part of the Anthropology Department Colloquium Series.
Speaker: Jonathan Padwe, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Thursday, October 3rd, 3:00PM, George Hall 227
The distinction between upland and lowland society in mainland Southeast Asia is an enduring social divide that has long provoked scholars of the region. In the lowlands, peasant production of “paddy” rice in inundated fields has given rise to stratified societies practicing so-called world religions. In contrast the uplands are home to myriad small groups of hill-rice farmers whose animist religious beliefs and numerous diverse languages set them apart from their lowland neighbors. To date, discussion of these distinctions has focused on the desires of upland peoples to resist incorporation into the state, and on the ways that agriculture, ecology, and numerous cultural distinctions them apart from their lowland neighbors. One factor that has not been taken into consideration is the role that resistance to malaria has played in structuring the lowland-upland divide. Most residents of the uplands receive year-round exposure to various strains of malaria, and develop acquired immunity to the disease. Most residents of the lowlands do not. Differential immunity complicates existing understandings of the historical relationship between upland and lowlands societies.
Jonathan Padwe is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. His book Disturbed Forests, Fragmented Memories: Jarai and Other Lives in the Cambodian Highlands is an examination of the environmental and social effects of war in Cambodia’s northeast hills.
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