II-1. “Practices and Exchanges in “Zomia”: Comparative Studies of Ethnic Minorities in Contemporary Upland Southeast Asia” (H28 FY2016)

  • Project Leader:Ochiai Yukino (Ryukoku University, Department of Food Agriculture System, Faculty of Agriculture)
  • Collaborators:Ikeda Kazuto (Osaka University, Graduate School of Language and Culture)
  •                              Imamura Masao (Yamagata University, Faculty of Literature and Social Sciences)
  •                              Kimura Makiko (Tsuda College, Department of International and Cultural Studies)
  •                              Kojima Takahiro (Tsuda College, Department of International and Cultural Studies)
  •                              Nakata Tomoko (Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Department of International Relations)
  •                              Nathan Badenoch (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  •                              Fujita Koichi (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)

Outline of Research

In this joint research project, we focus on ethnic minorities living in the so-called “Zomia” region that spreads from Yunnan Province of China to mainland Southeast Asia, northeastern India, and eastern Bangladesh. We intend to compare practices and exchanges among ethnic minorities who are forced to live as “foreign” citizens of nations. Based on this comparative analysis, we aim to 1) clarify the current status of research activities in this target region, 2) improve field survey methodology both from technical and ethical aspects, and 3) prepare a large-scale research project in the near future. In order to deliver research findings, we invite Dr. Ken Maclean from Clark University as a visiting fellow for six months from August 2016.


Eight research members will present the findings collected from their recent field work on ethnic minorities in the “Zomia” region. In addition we will invite guest speakers to give presentations from various disciplines and standpoints. Finally, we aim to 1) review and examine the current status of scholarship on this target region, 2) improve the field survey methodology, and 3) prepare a large-scale research project in the near future.


1. Cross-boundary research
We form a cross-boundary team to work on various case studies from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and China. In addition, we invite Dr. Ken Maclean as a visiting fellow for a six-month stay at CSEAS; he is the most suitable scholar to deepen our understanding, because he has distinguished research achievement in studying political violence, displacement, and irregular migration in mainland Southeast Asia.

2. Previously unstudied aspects of everyday life and unexpected situations We will analyze practices of ethnic minorities from two viewpoints:
everyday life and unexpected situations. We will cover a wide range of issues, including agriculture, business, handicraft making, religious acts, and oral communication. We will also discuss political affairs including conflicts, ethnic strife, and forced immigration.

Expected results

1. Building academic networks
Based on the two years of discussion and exchange among the members, the visiting fellow, and guest speakers, we aim to build academic networks to share knowledge and interests on the “Zomia” region to establish a large-scale joint research project in the near future.

2. Survey methodology improvement
During fieldwork in the “Zomia” region, we have faced many technical problems such as transportation, accommodation, communication with the official governments and crisis management. Further, when we work with informants it is important for us researchers to consider their sensitive positions and circumstances; we will therefore share information and experience related to logisitical and ethical issues to improve survey methodology.


With the increase of tourists, imported crafts are more frequently sold as souvenir at Louang Phabang, Laos.

A certificate system to set the standard for local handicrafts in Louang Phabang, Laos.