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The Complex Relationship between Indigeneity and Class in Southeast Asia

February 16, 2015 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Ian Baird drinking from a earthen jar on the ground via a long straw inside a hut-like structure

Monday Seminar:

Ian Baird

Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2014-2015)

Geography, UW-Madison


The relationship between ethnicity and class has been long, complex and at times contradictory. Between the 1940s and 1980s, various militant communist revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia and elsewhere in the world targeted upland ethnic minorities because of the racialized discrimination minorities faced, as well as their poor economic conditions, remote abodes, and perceived egalitarian worldviews. These mountain-dwelling minorities often made good guerilla soldiers, and the equality across races and ethnicities promised to them by communist cadre frequently resonated strongly. Ethnicity and class went together well. More recently, however, new ethnicity-based and globalized concepts of indigeneity have begun to circulate, take hold, and hybridize. While Indigenous peoples’ movements often have important class-based roots, with both indigenous and leftist movements having similar emancipatory aspirations, indigenous movements organize based on ethnicity rather than class. In this presentation, I consider the complex relationship between class and ethnicity/indigeneity in Southeast Asia. In particular, I examine Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and communal land titling, and how conceptions of indigeneity are affecting nature-society relations.


Ian G. Baird is an Assistant Professor of Geography at UW-Madison. He received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of British Columbia. He lived and worked in Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia for more than 20 years. He will spend the semester conducting research and writing about social movements in Southeast Asia associated with the concept of indigeneity. He will also organize an international workshop at UW-Madison regarding the concept of indigeneity in Southeast Asia. His primary research interests are land and resource management and tenure; the political ecology of large-scale hydropower dam construction in the Mekong River Basin; Indigenous Peoples movements in Southeast Asia; marginal histories in mainland Southeast Asia; and Hmong, Lao, Thai, Brao and Khmer Studies. He is at work at a project entitled “Indigeneity in Southeast Asia: The Geopolitics of the Expansion and Localization of an Increasingly Global Movement.”


February 16, 2015
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States