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The Politics of Culture, History and Identity
More than a quarter of century after the end of the war in 1975, the Lao leadership is still in search for a compelling nationalist narration. Its politics of culture and representation appear to be caught between the rhetoric of preservation and the desire for modernity. Meanwhile, originating from the periphery where ethnic minorities had hitherto been symbolically, politically and administratively confined, the participation of some of their members in the Indochina Wars (1945-75) exposed these individuals to socialization and politicization processes. This rigorously researched and cogently argued book is a fine-grained analysis of substantial ethnographic material, showing the politics of identity, the geographies of memory and the power of narratives of some members of ethnic minority groups who fought during the Vietnam War in the Lao People's Liberation Army and/or were educated within the revolutionary administration. No study has ever been conducted on the latter's views on the national(ist) project of the late socialist era. Their own perceptions of their membership of the nation have been overlooked.
"Post-war Laos" is a set to be a landmark study, and an original contribution that refines established theories of nationalism, such as Anderson's "imagined community", by addressing a common weakness: namely, their tendency to deny agency to individuals, who in fact interpret their relationship to, and place within, the nation in a variety of ways that may change according to time and circumstance.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"'Post-war Laos is a thorough and original study of the difficult making of a multi-ethnic nation. Combining a historical approach and a multi-sided ethnography, it provides unique insights into the ideology of ethnicity in Laos. This book is clearly a major contribution to the understanding of one of the less known countries in Asia.' (Dr Yves Goudineau, Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient) 'Post-war Laos makes not only an important contribution to the study of Lao identity, society and history, but also more broadly to the vexed problem of multiple identities among the people of Southeast Asia.' (Prof. Martin Stuart-Fox, University of Queensland)"