"Finding a Solid Rice Bowl": Understanding Thai Labor Migrations and Agrarian Transitions within Economic and Ecological Frameworks

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
TW1.3.03 (Tower One)
Gregory Gullette, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA
This paper explores agrarian families’ use of labor diversification to mitigate environmental, political, and socioeconomic changes introduced through Thai urbanization policies.  Building from literatures in development, livelihood, and migration studies, this research analyzes how state-planned urban expansion in Thailand (Nakhon Ratchasima province) alters land allocations, natural resource availabilities, and household labor organization among agriculturalists.  Though stratified by class, status, and land holdings, agrarian households’ livelihoods demonstrated both degrees of dependence on natural resource availabilities and increased exposures to the Thai state’s urban expansion policies and changing broader political economies.  However, while state development may be viewed as coercive structural forces underpinning contemporary labor flexibilities due to the alteration of land tenure, resource availabilities, and economic systems, complex individual and family agendas shaped people’s participation in and understanding of labor diversification.  Ethnographic data demonstrated too the ways in which migration decisions and household provisioning strategies reflected people’s understandings of Thai socio-political and cultural systems.  By exploring people’s engagement with culturally constructed social hierarchies, notions of modernity, and ideas of state development, this research contributes to deeper understandings of how cultural aspirations shape labor mobilities, remittance behaviors, and agrarian transitions.