Laos and the making of a 'relational' resource frontier | Land Portal

Resource information

Date of publication: 
December 2009
Resource Language: 
ISBN / Resource ID: 

This paper seeks to reconsider the contemporary relevance of the resource frontier, drawing on examples of nature's commodification and enclosure under way in the peripheral Southeast Asian country of Laos. Frontiers are conceived as relational zones of economy, nature and society; spaces of capitalist transition, where new forms of social property relations and systems of legality are rapidly established in response to market imperatives. Customary property rights on the resource frontier can be seized by powerful actors in crucial political moments, preparing the territorial stage for more intensive phases of resource commodity production and accumulation. Relational frontier space is understood through the work of geographers such as Doreen Massey, who views the production of space as 'constituted though the practices of engagement and the power-geometries of relations'. In Laos, a twenty-first century resource frontier is being driven by new corporate investments in natural resources, and a supporting array of land reform programmes. The paper focuses on both the material and representational aspects of the production of the resource frontier, through policy and discourse analysis, and village level research in Laos' Khammouane province. By rethinking a dualist and hierarchical-scaled imaginary of frontier places, both rural people and local ecologies are shown to be key actors, in a complex, relational reproduction of frontier zones. An emerging Lao spatial and political assemblage - a form of 'frontier-neoliberalism' - is shown as producing dramatic changes in socio-natural landscapes, as well as new patterns of marginalisation and livelihood insecurity for a vulnerable rural population.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Barney, Keith

Data provider

The purpose of the Mekong Land Research Forum online site is to provide structured access to published and unpublished research on land issues in the Mekong Region. It is based on the premise that debates and decisions around land governance can be enhanced by drawing on the considerable volume of research, documented experience and action-based reflection that is available.

Share this page