Field, Forest, and Family: Women's Work and Power in Rural Laos

Field, Forest, and Family: Women's Work and Power in Rural Laos

Field, Forest, and Family: Women's Work and Power in Rural Laos

Field, Forest, and Family: Women's Work and Power in Rural Laos

Synopsis

After the Vietnam War, socialist governments ascended to power in all the countries of the former Indochina. In Laos, more than a decade of socialist reorganization was followed by economic liberalization in the late 1980s. Laotian women had traditionally sustained the household and local economy with their work in field, forest, and family, but political and economic changes markedly affected the context of rural women's prevailing sources of power and subordination. Socialist policies, for example, curtailed women's commercial activities while recognizing women's work in agriculture and child care. In this richly detailed volume, Carol Ireson draws on ten years of fieldwork and research to explore this metamorphosis among Laotian women. Throughout, she poses questions such as: What has happened to women's traditional sources of control over their own and others' activities since the 1975 socialist revolution? Have their traditional sources of power or autonomy expanded or contracted as changing conditions have allowed other groups to appropriate women's traditional resources and roles? Have the dramatic changes had different effects on rural women of differing ethnic backgrounds and varying economic means?Focusing on women from three major ethnic groups- the lowland Lao, the Khmu, and the Hmong- Ireson examines the different ways they have responded to political and economic changes. She shows us that the Laotian experience reveals in microcosm the processes of change toward specialization and integration of women's work into national and global economies and explains how this shift deeply affects women's lives.
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