4. The Joys and Frustrations of Village Study

Our method of area studies helps to steadily broaden and deepen our knowledge and ideas, by allowing us to associate with farmers individually and to examine each single paddy field in the village we stay in. Individual farmers have their particular sets of circumstances. Here is one example: "After the divorce of the parents, the grandfather and grandmother were taking care of the children. Due to a shortage of labor, they had to switch to directly sowing the paddy rice seeds instead of transplanting seedlings as they had done until the previous year." This leads you to the eye-opening fact the method of paddy rice production can be affected by a divorce. From there, you become interested in other related matters, such as what caused the divorce and the incidence of divorce in agricultural villages. All farming families have their own stories. And when you begin to look at villages, you find that each is uniquely distinctive. You cannot really be sure of what is happening before your eyes unless you know the type of village in which it is happening or the sort of family to which it is happening. Unless you are very careful and understand what you are dealing with, you may be quibbling on insignificant details without even knowing it.

A 1983 photo from the village I was studying. The experience of looking around the paddy fields in this village provided the foundation for what I have been doing since. At the time, I spoke very little Thai or Isan. Even so, the villagers did not hesitate to talk to me. And I know that more often than not, they were simply enjoying themselves making fun of me.

KONO Yasuyuki
Food Production and Environmental Protection

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