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Cashews, Cash, and Cultural Change: The Transformation of Jarai Society in Northeast Cambodia

Structure de recherche associée à la MRSH : Pôle rural
Enregistré le : 17/11/2009 - Durée : 51mn10s - Réalisation : CEMU, Université de Caen
Lieu : Université Caen

Jonathan Padwe is completing a Ph.D. in anthropology and environmental studies at Yale University. His dissertation, "Garden Variety Histories: Some Notes on Farming at the End of the World" is based on over two years of ethnographic field research with the Jarai of Northeast Cambodia.

Over the past forty years, historic events have transformed the lives of Cambodia's Jarai montagnards, an ethnic minority that inhabits the border region of Cambodia and the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The American-Vietnam War, the American aerial bombardment of Cambodia, resettlement and collectivization under the Khmer Rouge regime, the Vietnamese liberation of Cambodia, and a recent period of rapid development and modernization have transformed not only the landscape the Jarai inhabit, but also the ways they organize themselves as a society.

Today, the rapid intensification of the agricultural system represents a far-reaching transformation of Jarai society: over the past fifteen years, Jarai farmers have stopped fallowing their fields, and have begun to produce cashew for the world market on former rice fields. This shift is occurring at the same time that the traditional common-property regime governing land use is being replaced by a system of private property rights, allowing ethnic-Khmer entrepreneurs and speculators to accumulate land-holdings in an area that was formerly dominated by the highland minorities.

This paper investigates the transformation of Jarai society that accompanies the privatization of land and the shift from subsistence ‘swidden' agriculture to the production of agricultural commodities for the world market. In particular, the paper seeks to combine the approach of scholars working on the question of agricultural intensification with the tradition of economic anthropology rooted in Karl Polanyi's work on traditional and modern economies.

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