"Thongmakhsan, Northwestern Thailand, Through Time: Life and Livelihood 1977 - 2003"

Speaker: Dr. Nicola Tannenbaum, Professor of Anthropology in Lehigh University, USA.
Date:16:00-18:00, June 11 (Friday), 2004
Room 307, Common Building of CSEAS

I have been doing fieldwork in and around Thongmakhsan since the summer of 1977 when another graduate student and I joined Paul Durrenberger, my supervisor, and his wife in the village. In this lecture, I trace two parallel histories: that of Thongmakhsan and my relationship with it. There have been many changes in Thongmakhsan since 1977: the number of households have increased from 42 to around 90; people no longer make rice swiddens (slash and burn fields); garlic has become a major crop; the village school closed but some Thongmakhsan children go to college; water buffalos have been replaced by walking tractors; there is electricity; and a new generation is in the process of replacing the old one. Similarly, my relationship with the village and the villagers have changed through time: I am no longer a stranger; village life is not “new” to me anymore; I used to know everyone, now because of the influx of refugees from the Shan state, I no longer do; on every trip, I learn more and more about a smaller section of the community; people I have been close to have died; I am a “ grandmother,”and have sons and grandchildren; people who were children when I was first there in 1977 now have children; I thought I understood the community and my place in it but am now less sure of both my understanding and my place in Thongmakhsan. I explore both of these intertwined histories, tracing these connections to the local village, provincial, and international contexts. In conclusion I discuss the contributions that long term fieldwork makes for anthropology and the affects this has on the anthropologist.
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