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

By Carol J. Ireson | Go to book overview

Preface

Field, Forest, and Family is the culmination of work in Laos ranging over more than a quarter of a century of my life. My research and experience in Laos form the basis for much of the book, though I rely more heavily on existing literature for Khmu and Hmong comparisons and I draw liberally on other published and unpublished sources when relevant. I gathered the information about rural women from several years of development project work in Laos. In all I have worked in Laos for five years ( 1967-69, 1984-86, 1988-89) and have made several shorter visits. I was fortunate to be able to travel and carry out research in Laos during these times. Foreigners not from socialist bloc countries were rarely granted permission by communist government authorities to travel to rural areas for research purposes alone. Thus, data on the social and economic impacts of events like agricultural cooperativization, economic liberalization, or the removal of restrictions on family planning education and birth-control devices have usually been gathered by foreigners primarily in the context of development project planning, implementation, and evaluation. Furthermore, there were no Laotian social science researchers who were carrying out research during the time periods covered in this book.

I first worked in Laos in the late 1960s as a volunteer on the rural development team of International Voluntary Services (IVS). At that time I learned to speak Lao and became acquainted with Lao culture and customs. In 1968-69 I designed and, with the support of the Royal Lao Government and the United States Agency for International Development, implemented a study of the diet of twelve families in each of six villages from northern to southern Laos. War interfered with the study, but my six research teams (home economists from the Ministry of Agriculture and their counterpart IVS home economists) were able to interview household members and to record and weigh the food prepared over a three-day period during at least two of the three seasons in most selected village households. With the help of a nutritionist from the World Health Organization (WHO), research teams also weighed and measured children in these households, noting obvious signs of nutritional deficiencies ( C. Ireson 1969). Some of this information is included in Chapters 2 and 7.

-xv-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Illustrations xi
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xxi
  • 1 - Women: Power, Subordination, And Development 1
  • 2 - Laos: History, Society, And the Situation of Women 27
  • 3 - Traditional Sources of Power In Rural Women's Lives 55
  • 4 - Women of Luang Prabang 109
  • Notes 145
  • 5 - Women's Changing Agricultural Activities 149
  • Notes 176
  • 6 - Forest Gathering, Crafts, and Marketing 179
  • 7 - Family, Home, and Children 207
  • Notes 231
  • 8 - Politics of Gender and Development: Transformation of the Lao Women's Union 235
  • 9 - Rural Laotian Women: Work, Power, and Development 259
  • References 263
  • Index 279
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