Internal Resettlement in Laos
Reading Too Much into Aspirations: More Explorations of the Space between Coerced and Voluntary Resettlement in Laos
Author: Ian G. Baird | Keith Barney | Peter Vandergeest | and Bruce Shoemaker
In this response to an article by Holly High, “The Implications of Aspirations: Reconsidering Resettlement in Laos,” published in Critical Asian Studies in December 2008 (vol. 40, no. 4, pp. 531–50), the authors do not dispute the notion that many people in Laos have aspirations for modernity and development. However, they are at odds with High in two key ways. First, she only presents a selective reading of authors who have written critically about highland to lowland resettlement in Laos, thus misrepresenting some of their ideas. Second, the empirical evidence High provides is insufficient or inappropriate to support her argument that people who are being resettled from the uplands to the lowlands in Laos are supportive of these state-sponsored schemes because they fit with their aspirations for modernity. The authors are concerned that High’s article may inadvertently serve to justify the views of those who advocate and fund centrally planned resettlement of ethnic minorities in Laos and who believe that non-participatory and top-down resettlement is acceptable if increased funding is available and better planning is conducted, even when those targeted for relocation would rather not move.