Transforming rural Southeast Asia
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Contributor(s): Professor Tania Murray Li | In Southeast Asia, 30 million more people live and work in rural areas today than they did in 1990. Yet rural people are largely absent from public and academic discourse, out of sight and out of mind. One reason for the neglect is the stubbornly persistent transition narrative which suggests that rural populations are anachronistic: they belong to the past, and sooner or later they will move to cities and join the march of progress. Hence it is not worth worrying too much about who they are or how they live, how national and global currents affect them, or how their aspirations and practices shape the course of history. The only question seems to be how to move them more quickly out of agriculture, into jobs, and off the land to free up more space for mining, corporate agriculture or conservation schemes. In this talk Tania Murray Li outlines the main powers and processes at work in transforming rural Southeast Asia and draw on her ethnographic research in Indonesia to illustrate how rural people navigate their ever-changing terrain.
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