The Recent Tai Lue Migrants along the
Thai‑Myanmar Border: Transnational Practice and Ethnicity Utilized to Live in the Border Context
著者 ハッタパス ジャルワン
著者別表示 Hatapasu Jaruwan journal or
博士論文本文Full 学位授与番号 13301甲第5104号
The Recent Tai Lue Migrants along the Thai-Myanmar Border:
Transnational Practice and Ethnicity Utilized to Live in the Border Context
Jaruwan Hatapasu Student ID: 1721082013
Supervisor: Yoichi Nishimoto
Sub- Supervisor: Haruya Kagami, Koji Nakashima
Table of Contents
List of Table iii
List of Figures iv
Chapter (1) INTRODUCTION
1.1 Statement of the Problem ... 1
1.2 Questions of the Study ... 7
1.3 Objectives of the Study ... 7
1.4 Theories, Concept and Literature Review ... 8
1.4.1 Borders Studies and Transnationalism ... 8
1.4.2 Concept of Ethnicity ... 25
1.4.3 Relavant research onTai Lue study ... 31
1.5 Theoretical Framework ... 40
1.6 Research Methods ... 44
1.7 Outline of Dissertaton ... 49
Chapter (2) HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF TAI LUE 2.1 Sipsongpanna: the origin of Tai Lue homeland before Chinese political revolution ... 51
2.2 Tai Lue and their migration ... 54
2.3 Tai Lue in Thailand ... 56
2.4 Summary ... 59
Chapter (3) THE STUDY AREA 3.1 Mae Sai: A Thai - Myanmar Dynamic Borders Town in Development Context ... 60
3.1.1 History of Mae Sai: A dynamic Borders Town from Past to Present ... 60
3.1.2 Multi Ethnic - Cultural Societies and Migrants in Mae Sai ... 68
3.2 Tai Lue in Mae Sai: The Resettlement in Mae Sai borderland ... 70
3.3 Tai Lue Transnational Migrant villages: The Two Case Studies ... 76
3.3.1 Rong Pra Jao village ... 77
3.3.2 Chumchon Tai Lue village ... 83
3.3.3 Their Relationship with the Others — Tai Yai in the Village, Thai Yuan, and the other Tai Lue from other Villages in Mae Sai ... 87
3.4 Summary ... 90
Chapter (4) INDIVIDUAL LEVEL: LIFE WITHIN AND BEYOND BORDERS 4.1 Lives at the Mae Sai Border: Tai Lue Transnational Migrants and Ethnic Network as Resource ... 93
4.2 Case Study: Tai Lue Singer ... 96
4.3 Case Study: Tai Lue Monk ... 109
4.4 Case study: Tai Lue Leader/Activist ... 116 4.5 Summary ... 124
Chapter (5) COMMUNITY LEVEL: TRANSNATIONAL COMMUNITY CONSTRUCTION AND SENSE OF BELONGING
5.1 Rong Pra Jao Village: The Resettlement of a Transnational Migrants
Community in Mae Sai Borderland ... 127 5.2 A Tai Lue transnational practice: A Buddhist Ritual — Tang Tham Luang and its Tai Lue Network ... 131 5.3 Tang Tham Luang: A Ritual for Constructing Migrant Community and
Sense of Belonging ... 146 5.4 Summary ... 155 Chapter (6) ASSOCIATION LEVEL: SOCIO-SPATIAL
INCLUSION/EXCLUSION AND THEIR PRATICE FOR RESPONSE
6.1 Tai Lue (Mae Sai) Association: The Intricate Representation ... 158 6.2 The Inclusion and The Exclusion Undergo through Activities and Ethnic
Network ... 175 6.3 Tai Lue (Mae Sai) Association: A Social and Cultural Network and their
Practice for Response ... 182 6.4 Summary ... 196 Chapter (7) CONCLUSION: LIVES OF THE TAI LUE MIGRANTS WITHIN
AND BEYOND BORDERS ... 198 References ... 211 Appendix ... 219
List of Tables
Table 3. 1 Population in Mae Sai 2016 ... 62 Table 3. 2 Numbers of Population in Mae Sai District ... 62
List of figures
Figure 1.1: A Conceptual Framework 40
Figure 2.1: Location of Sipsongpanna: The Mekong River is the key artery that connects the entire region 51
Figure 2. 2 Location of Sipsongpana and its borders 52
Figure 2. 3 Tai Lue migration 55
Figure 2. 4 Map of Thailand showing Tai Lue ethnic groups 57
Figure 3. 1 Location of Mae Sai in Thailand 61
Figure 3. 2a Mae Sai immigration: Border Checkpoint 64
Figure 3. 2b Mae Sai Border crossing roads 64
Figure 3. 4a Shops in Mae Sai Market 66
Figure 3. 4b Toys shop in Mae Sai Market 66
Figure 3. 6a Smuggled Perfume Brand shops at Tachileik Market 67
Figure 3. 6b Smuggled Shoes (brand) shop at Tachileik Market 67
Figure 3. 8a an illegal CD/DVDs shop at Thachileik Market 68
Figure 3. 8b an electronic appliances, household plastic utensils shop 68
Figure 3. 10a Rice field in the village 81
Figure 3. 10b A house in the village 81
Figure 3. 11a: A house in the village 81
Figure 3. 11b Rong Pra Jao temple 81
Figure 3. 14a: A village dries rice 92
Figure 3. 14b A grocery shop 82
Figure 3. 16 a small canal in the village separate Mae Sai and Tachileik (the green rice field is in Tachleik) 82
Figure 3. 17 The entrance gate 86
Figure 3. 18 The road in the village 86
Figure 3. 19 The houses in the village 86
Figure 4. 1 Ms. Vassana at a Tai Lue event. She is the ten in line from the right 104
Figure 4. 2 Ms. Vassana is preparing herself for “Ngan Poi Luang” 104
Figure 4. 3 Ms. Vassana is making merit 105
Figure 4. 4a Ms. Vassana is receiving the ward from the company (direct sale business) 105
Figure 4. 4b Ms. Vassana is at her company party. 105
Figure 4. 6 Ms. Vassana is with her products 106
Figure 4. 7 Pra Somchai is at his class. 110
Figure 4. 8 Pra Somchai is doing an intership by teaching middle school students 110 Figure 4. 9 Pra Somchai is teaching as a monk intern 113
Figure 4. 10 The picture of the event, “Getting ready to AEC ASEAN” led by the “Pra Somchai Yanwaro” 113
Figure 4. 11a A Town ruler of Muang Yawng’s clan is written by Mr. Tune 118
Figure 4. 11b A document about “Moving Tai Lue” collected by Mr. Tune 118
Figure 4. 12 A picture of Mr. Tune giving an interview at “Think for the nation” program 122
Figure 5. 1 a poster of the life of Phra Wetsandon displaying in the Rong Pra Jao temple 132
Figure 5. 2 Male villages are preparing stuffs on the prep day (2017) 136
Figure 5. 3a the mobile stores in front of the temple (2017) 136
Figure 5. 3b around the temple building area 136
Figure 5. 4 Area for Buddhists followers 137
Figure 5. 5 On the second day of Tang Tham Luang (2015) 137
Figure 5. 6 Picture of thammas” is imported from Tachileik 138
Figure 5. 7 A monk from Rong Pra Jao village is peaching the sermons 138
Figure 5. 8 the offering Buddhist followers brought to the temple. 142
Figure 5. 9 Many of the offerings are from Myanmar 143
Figure 5. 10 Hong Fha Shop 146
Figure 5. 11 Tesco Lotus Mall 146
Figure 5. 12 The description of the sale is in Thai, Myanmar and English at Tesco Lotus Mae Sai 146
Figure 6. 1 The “Tai Lue Sammakkey group at Wat Muang Dai School 161
Figure 6. 2 Tai Lue from Mae Sai joining the Tai Lue Festival at Chaing Kham on 2015 163
Figure 6. 3 Picture of the representative from the Tai Lue (Mae Sai) Association is sharing his thoughts 164
Figure 6. 4 The grand opening night at the ten amazing ethnic groups in Mae Sai festival 167
Figure 6. 5 a Tai Lue house displays at the festival 168
Figure 6. 6 Tai Lue from the association at The Buddhism and humanity conference in Asia 170
Figure 6. 7 The representatives join the “Asa Prasharat” meeting 171
Figure 6. 8 Tai Lue from the assiation helping as a “Jit Asa” Volunteer 172
Figure 6. 9 Tai Lue (Mae Sai) Association 180
Figure 6. 10 The Local Tai Lue – from San Boon Rong village 180
Figure 6. 11The king picture in the Tai Lue house at the festival 186
Figure 6. 12 A picture of the Tai Lue migrants volunteering at Jit Asa project 188
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 Statement of the Problem
“A town filled with a diversity of people is a border town, marginal people are made invisible in the borders.
However, in that invisibility, there is always a negotiation for benefits and interests.”
(Original in Thai, translated by the author)
Yos Santasombat, 2017 (Interview with way magazine.org, 23 March 2017) Observers may perceive the borders as an arena where there is an on-going flow of people, goods, full of multi-culture, and also a place for displaced persons, migrants, and a variety of ethnic groups (Yos 2005; Agnew 2008; Wasan 2008). Borders exist for various practical reasons and sorted according to the purposes they serve (Agnew 2008, 1-2). Therefore, border discourse gives a particular meaning to an area, people, and their/its practices. In such a context, border discourse allows us to see the state’s power and its control; moreover, by looking at borders, we will see the relationship, interaction, and contestation of many actors. However, borders are full of the cultural practices of many people who have a varied history of culture, mobility, exile, and transnational experiences.
In thinking of/about borders, they are not only a limit, a line, watersheds or mountain barrier dividing countries but also the dynamic center in terms of seeking to form a diverse set of livelihoods. My research sets out to deal with a movement of people in the borders of Southeast Asia that has been going on for a long time, for example, ethnic minorities—to be more precise, a Tai Lue ethnic group.
Themes of opportunity (Agnew 2008; Seglow 2005)—whether economic, social, or cultural—and constraints or a site of struggle (Tyerman 2016; Pitch 2007;
De Genova 2014) characterize border studies. Peoples are always one subject,
included or excluded, within a hierarchical network of groups, affiliations, and identities along the borders (Newman 2000; Van Houtum 2000; Madsen and van Naerssen 2003; Konrad 2014). I posit and explore borders as a complex set of human relationships, networks, control mechanisms, economic, social and cultural practices.
Borders are where the flow of any resources takes place.
In this light, I suggest thinking about borders as a dynamic center for seeking to improve the economic well-being and enhancing the life chances of border commuters and their descendants. I do not argue that there are no struggles, nor do I try to conceal the conflict occurring within and across the borders, instead, I would like to bring the argument further by thinking about borders beyond their present limitations and boundaries. My research will focus on how recent Tai Lue migrants can benefit from borders and how they use an ethnic network and transnational practices to create advantageous lives.
I propose to think about borders as a transition zone (Newman 2003) where migrants resettle and remake their lives in new settings, to pursue a decent life and economic or social opportunity extending beyond the borders of any particular state. I argue that, on the one hand, borders present challenges to people daily; on the other hand, borders provide social and economic opportunities across the confines of a nation-state. My research frames the border not only as an area where the sovereign power of a particular state is dominant but also as an area of social, cultural, and state power which is always being challenged, contested, and negotiated in terms of economic, social, and culture. The borderlanders or migrants could challenge and interplay the formal (nation-state) rules related to migration and development policy.
A border becomes a resource that advances people’s lives within and across the border. This changed perspective allows borderlanders to design a varied set of
livelihood strategies and dwelling choices, and this changed perspective enables us to see the dynamic relationships of borderlanders. However, I argue that people’s border experiences enable the differences to be distinct in this transition zone among a Tai Lue ethnic group along the border. In doing so, I use a case study of Tai Lue transnational migrant communities living along the Thai-Myanmar border to illustrate this discussion.
Thailand has several borders, as well as ethnic diversities. The town of Mae Sai is one of a cluster of Thai border towns in the Mae Sai district of the Chiang Rai province of Thailand. The area represents a significant border between Thailand and Tachileik, Myanmar. Mae Sai is one of the strategic hubs where ethnic minorities from nearby countries resettle both temporarily or permanently. Development projects from the Thai government have transformed this vibrant town into an economic and tourist destination. More than ten ethnic groups live along the Thai-Myanmar borders:
Tai Yai, Tai Lue, Thai Yuan, Yunnanese Chinese, Akha, Lua, Lahu, Dara- ang/Ta’ang, Tai Khun, and others. Due to the different arrival times of the various ethnic groups, a condition which plays a crucial role in the development of Mas Sai, the people/inhabitants/migrants have dynamically formed the Mae Sai border town into a multi-ethnic-cultural community.
Tai Lue is one of the ethnic groups living in a vibrant Mae Sai border town.
Tai Lue is a Tai-speaking group, an ethnic group that initially settled in the Sipsongpanna area of China. In the early nineteenth century, the first migrant waves of Tai Lue mitigated to the Lanna Kingdom (present-day northern Thailand). They left the devastation from the war against Burma and sought to help re-establish and repopulate the Lanna Kingdom so the kingdom could be a political and cultural center (Cohen 1998, 50). After the migration, this group of Tai Lue assimilated with the
other Tai-speaking group—Tai-Yuan, the majority group of northern Thailand (Baba 2014, 3).
However, there are many Tai Lue who sought to immigrate to other countries, such as France, the U.S.A., Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. In the last 20-30 years, Mae Sai has been one of the destinations for Tai Lue immigrants. Nowadays, twenty- seven Tai Lue villages reside in eight sub-districts in the Mae Sai district—both prior Tai Lue migrants and the recent ones. The Tai Lue immigrants who recently migrated into Mae Sai, have starkly different situations and circumstances from those Tai Lue who first migrated to Thailand in the early nineteenth century. First, these immigrants are not Thai citizens. Second, they live in migrant communities, unregistered villages, that are registered in the name of nearby villages. Third, as recent migrants, there are other migrants in the new setting; at the same time, these immigrants feel connected to several places. Lastly, the immigrants are marginalized by the people in the majority population and the established Tai Lue in the multi-ethnic culture of the Thai—Myanmar border.
In such a context, these immigrants have to negotiate particular constraints and opportunities (economic, social, other). They face many challenges, for example, feeling insecure, uncertain of livelihood, being apart from their family in their country of origin—Sipsongpana, China, and Myanmar. This transnational experience may also result in either a loss of belonging or create various senses of belonging for some individuals. Therefore, immigrants have to come up with many strategies and practices to deal with those challenges in order to negotiate their way in a new place.
The Tai Lue ethnic network, then, becomes one of the initial resources used on the border for recent Tai Lue migrants in their activities within and across the borders.
This study sheds light on the phenomena of the recent Tai Lue transnational migrants on the Thailand-Myanmar border context, where a space of cultural diversity takes no static forms. This research examines how the recent Tai Lue transnational migrants utilize their ethnicity as a vital resource to negotiate for a decent life, social and economic opportunities within and across the borders of the Thai nation-state.
This research will facilitate an understanding of the dynamic relationship between actors that encounter and interplay along the borders. Moreover, this research reflects a complex set of how recent Tai Lue transnational migrants, things, ideas, ethnic hierarchy, and power relations get repositioned in a new settlement. I will focus on three interconnected levels: individual, community, and the creation of the Tai Lue (Mae Sai) Association, as a result of dialogue with the state power and with intra- ethnic group relationships within and beyond the Thai-Myanmar border.
In this research, I have raised three questions: 1) what /how the Tai Lue ethnicity is utilized by the recent Tai Lue transnational migrants to live in the border context to pursue a decent life and economic or social opportunity; as such 2) how those (transnational) practices generate or reflect the social and cultural networks of Tai Lue migrants; consequenlty 3) how the recent Tai Lue transnational migrants manage and negotiate their relationships with the other actors—the other Tai Lue, the other ethnic groups, and the government within this context.
Looking through these interactions and interplays will allow us to see the cross-border network, the flow of resources, the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and culture, and power applies. What is more, those kinds of things create a type of consciousness, a mode of cultural reproduction, an avenue of capital, and a site of political engagement. Additionally, we will see how recent Tai Lue transnational
migrants posit themselves and create a dialogue with the other actors—the other Tai Lue, the other ethnic groups, and the Thai government.
This research includes qualitative research. I collected data from related documents, participant observation and non- participant observation, and in-depth informant interviews. The study employs the concepts of borders, together with transnationalism, and the concept of ethnicity.
I hope this study fills the gaps in knowledge of this group of people and enables the voices and lives of marginalized people to be heard or made visible to Thai society. I also hope that this dissertation widens the horizons of knowledge on border studies, especially studies about the Thai-Myanmar border.
1.2 Questions of the Study
1. What/ How is Tai Lue ethnicity utilized by the recent Tai Lue transnational migrants to live in the border context to pursue a decent life and economic or social opportunity?
2. How do those (transnational) practices generate or reflect the social and cultural networks of Tai Lue migrants?
3. How do the recent Tai Lue transnational migrants manage and negotiate their relationships with the other actors—the other Tai Lue, the other ethnic groups, and the government within this context?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1. To explain the social and cultural characteristics of the recent Tai Lue transnational migrants and their practices as they live and remake their lives in new settings, Thai – Myanmar border, to pursue a decent life and economic or social opportunity.
2. To understand and reflect upon the recent Tai Lue transnational migrant’s livelihoods and their relationship with the other Tai Lue, the other ethnic groups, their cultural practices and their social networks, which encounter and interplay in the Thai-Myanmar borders context.
3. To uncover a social implication hidden behind such social and cultural practices, transnational practice, and their utilization of Tai Lue ethnicity as an important resource.
1.4 Theories, Concept and Literature Review
1.4.1 Borders Studies and Transnationalism
1.4.2 Concept of Ethnicity
1.4.3 Previous studies on Tai Lue
1.4.1 Borders Studies and Transnationalism
In this section, I review the literature on the concepts of borders and transnationalism. First, I begin with the concept of borders, followed by a discussion of transnationalism concepts. This approach identifies the context of the research area and conceptualizes the study area as well as helping develop the arguments in this dissertation.
In this part, I present the previous studies in borders. Then, I provide a summary of how I employ this concept in my research to look at the characteristics of a border.
Borders phenomena have become a popular research topic in academia during the past decades. The study of borders ranges from geographic and spatial scales; the types of borders vary from hard geography to the social and cultural aspects (Newman 2003, 17). Border research can also be broadly defined as the categories of difference that create socio-spatial distinctions between places, individuals, and groups in a modern nation-state context. The occurrence of these new borders had just formed as a result of the establishment of a modern state; this emergence may be considered as
the beginning of the social science aspect, a new way to study the new phenomena, which is more complicated than the physical aspects of a border (Jakkrit 2008, 214).
The border had become more than merely a watershed or mountain barrier between states within the international system. The contemporary study of borders focuses on the process of bordering, through which territories and peoples are included or excluded within a hierarchical network of groups, affiliations, and identities (Newman and Paasi 1998; Newman 2000; Van Houtum 2000).
The borders can be policed, with access denied or permitted, and are always subject to reading or interpretation (Michaelsen and Johnson 2015, 22). Borders apply power as symbols of sovereignty and thus act as institutions for states to utilize and as a tool to manage their human, economic, natural and other assets, and enable a claim to the privilege of territorial authority (Murphy 2010).
In contrast, J. W. Scott (2012) suggested that borders are not only institutions but are also procedures that cannot be finalized. With this perspective, borders are often more than the boundaries and barriers that they appear to be (Konrad 2014, 42).
Therefore, borders matter because they are places that powerfully shape lives (Tyerman 2016, 130).
Vladimir Kolossov and James Scott (2013) discussed the consequences of bordering by focusing on border management in terms of its control and border crossing, i.e., contestation and transcendence (Kolossov and Scott 2013, 11). They opened up the field to questions regarding the rationales behind everyday borders by understanding borders as institutions, processes, and symbols. In this light, borders are not a given; borders emerge through the socio-political processes of border making or bordering that take place within society. According to Kolossov and Scott’s perspective, borders are physical outcomes of political, social, and/or
economic processes. They argued, “the process of bordering can be defined as the everyday construction of borders, for example through political discourses and institutions, media representations, school textbooks, stereotypes and everyday forms of transnationalism” (Kolossov and Scott 2013, 3).
Kolossov and Scott noted, “[T]he states of border studies indicates that the recent developments have deeply changed the ‘power’ of borders; they have modified the dialectical relation between their fixed nature and continuously changing, fluid regime and framed the impact of borders on human activities in a new way. Borders not only have a different meaning for different actors but are a manifestation of power relations in society” (13). According to Kolossov and Scott (2013), we can see that borders emerge through the socio-political processes of border making, and border creation operates at different levels and involves a dialectic relationship between local societies and territorial spaces.
Likewise, Yos and his research team (2015) conducted a research project,
“Power, Space, and Ethnic Identities: Cultural Politics of Nation-State in Thai Society.” in various areas in northern Thailand to facilitate an understanding of the relationships between the nation-state and the local groups in the border areas of northern Thailand, Burma, and Laos. The researchers paid attention to power relations, the production of social space, and the cultural identities of several ethnic groups. His project framed border areas as a space of cultural diversity and power struggles where the state’s power is constantly challenged and contested. Ethnic identities take no static forms but instead, that are reproduced and negotiated between various ethnic groups in their trade and activities along borders.
From this perspective, researchers should take power and control from the state into account. Moreover, looking through the border, we should be concerned
about the relationships, interactions, and conflict from many actors because a border is an area full of the cultural practices of many people with various histories, different levels of mobility, exile, and transnational experiences.
In essence, borders operate as a form of cross-border regionalization at different levels and in different realms of the agency. For instance, cross-border cooperation, political projects of place-making as well as everyday economic, social, family, and cultural practices help incorporate the border (ibid.: 3).
When studying borders, we should be aware of the consequences of this bordering at different scales and the dialectical relationship between state power and the borderlanders. Therefore, this research project looks at the dialectical relationships of migrants (notably, the Tai Lue ethnic group) in different scales: the individual, the migrant community, and the association in order to examine the impact of borders and everyday economic, social, family, and cultural practices that incorporate the border.
Baldano (2012) proposed that a border (in her case the Russia and China border) is more than a geopolitical boundary, a barrier, but rather, a line of interaction and contact between two powerful nations. She argued, “its [borders’] formation and the dynamics of it represent complex sets of human relationships, networks, control mechanisms, conomic, social and cultural practices … when the border opened and became a site of contact, this further changed the make-up of the group and the economic strategies of its members” (180). In this sense, a border is not a dividing line between two countries but a site of the interrelations between individuals, groups of people, and states. Therefore, a border is a junction where institutions, contacts, conflicts, and interests encounter each other (Baldano, 2012, 183).
Madsen and van Naerssen (2003) approached borders as an integral part of identities. They noted, “since identities are not static but continuously being
constructed, processes of identity construction require on-going processes of bordering and ‘othering’ of us/them” (62). Madsen and van Naerssen explained that in the process of identity construction, people are not just passive receptors, but they, at both at the individual and collective level, also play active roles in bordering and identity construction. Accordingly, people in the border area belong to several groups.
The migrants of today carry their imagined communities (hence, imagined communities Anderson 1991) with them to a greater degree than earlier migrants.
These newer migrants actively use these new communication chances to construct and maintain their identities in a new place.
As noted, researchers have discussed the concept of a border and the consequences of bordering, for example, a border as an integral part of the identities where borderlanders may have sense of belonging (Madsen and van Naerssen 2003), as a site of interrelations (Baldano 2012), and the change of dialectical relations between state power and the borderlanders (Yos 2015; Kolossov and Scott 2013).
Therefore, borders reflect the sphere of activity as well as raise crucial issues regarding citizenship, identity, political loyalty, and the intentions of states.
However, themes of opportunity can also characterize border studies—
whether economic, social, or cultural—and constraint. In Tyerman’s (2016) thesis, he studied borders as a site of struggles, as sites of segregation but also as a site of solidarity by using the case of several groups working together on the UK and Calais borders. Tyerman’s research framed the borders in terms of segregation by tracing how on-going histories of discrimination, domination, and racism in contemporary nation-state affect border-making contexts (Tyerman 2016, 7). He provided an essential insight on how borders work as normative social practices, how they are reproduced while also contested, and highlights what is at stake ethically and
politically in these struggles. He pointed out that a picture of everyday bordering is a messy, uncertain, and contested practice of segregation, which is nonetheless powerfully productive.
Similarly, Pitch’s (2017) thesis, presented his study on cross-border development between Thailand and Myanmar using the case of Mae Sai and Mae Sot.
His analysis examined the political economy and geopolitics of Thailand and Myanmar and the expansion of export industrialization of Thailand from the capital city to its border. He found, “both political economy and geopolitics of cross-border development at the Thai-Myanmar cross-border area created an unevenness of development not only in terms of economic between the two national spaces, but also the unevenness in border regulations of the two national spaces” (1-2).
Anderson and O’Dowd (1999) referred to borders as “the legal lines separating diverse jurisdictions; or to a ‘frontier area’ of variable width on either side of this legal line; or simply to a broad ‘zone of transition’ between diverse societies and centers of power” (594). For Anderson and O’Dowd, borders are the arena where we can see an encapsulated history of struggle against outside forces, and the limits of the community or society. They argued, borders alter with highly variable degrees of permeability: and border regions are peripheries of contradiction, transition or separation.
In contrast, Agnew (2008) challenged readers to think about borders as
“territorial spaces as ‘dwelling’ rather than national spaces and to see political responsibility for pursuit of a ‘decent life’” (1). He noted that borders should be considered not as fixed, but as a dwelling space to pursue a decent life extending beyond the confines of any particular state. He reframed the understanding of borders
by looking into how much borders enhance or restrict the pursuit of a better life and how people form unique identities in borders.
Similar to Agnew’s work, my research adds a more positive perspective on border studies; however, this outcome does not mean to conceal the conflict happening around borders, but instead, this research study raises a question on how those border commuters overcome those challenges. This study posits borders as a resource that advantageous people live within and across. I suggest that researchers should think about borders as a dynamic center for seeking to improve the economic well-being of border commuters and a way to enhance the life chances of border commuters.
In Konrad’s article (2014), “Borders and Culture: Zones of Transition, Interaction and Identity in the Canada-United States Borderlands,” he explored the intersection of borders and culture in the Canada-United States borderlands. He discussed how culture in the borderland is altered. Konrad proposes thinking about borders as an intersection zone where culture is displayed and expressed continuity and discontinuity. Thus, identity is formed and re-formed among those who claim an identity. Therefore, in this zone, cultural identity is more diffused, which generates identity heterogeneity and a sense of belonging (42).
Newman (2003) provided one way to deepen the understanding of border perceptions. He argued that “borders create opportunities for passage, for crossing over and hybridization processes … and the creation of trans-boundary regions transforms a borderland into a ‘transition zone’” (19). Following Newman’s idea, that a border is a transition zone where an interaction increases, and that creates borderless interactivity zones through migration. A transition zone replaces the barrier of a border with an interface where contact generates. Along the border, we can see a form
of a transition zone where hybridization generates. He discussed that border commuters experienced interrelated adaptation through daily working with each other, and this is how hybridization occurs in contact zones. The crossing experience enables differences to be reconciled, and the differences do not have to be enclosed by exclusive lines of separation (19).
Drawing from Konrad (2014) and Newman (2003), I explore the Mae Sai border as a transition zone where many hybridizations occur through migrants’
experiences of mutual adjustment negotiated through their activities with each other.
However, I would like to argue that the crossing experience does not enable differences to be reconciled, but instead, during the crossing experience, differences are brought into the sight by those border experiences. Borders make a clear distinction, particularly for the issue of identity and several aspects of belonging among an ethnic group, for example, the Tai Lue ethnic group.
The borders have transformed from a wall or barrier into a site of encounters, contacts, and interactions. Looking into a border context, we can see transnational phenomena: an on-going flow of people, goods, full of multiple cultures, and a place for displaced persons, migrants, and migrant workers. The mobility of people generates transnational migrants and transnational communities. Transnational migrants create a higher degree of connection between individuals, communities, and societies across borders. As a result, transnational migration brings about changes in the social, cultural, economic, and politics of origin and destination. Therefore, there a need to bring a transnational lens into an account in order to help us gain a better understanding of the phenomena occurring in a border context.
A review of the literature on transnationalism focuses on the movement of people across national borders. Researchers use transnationalism as a different way of looking at migration; in other words, the transnational lens places a spotlight on the connections that migrants form between countries. The term transnationalism started to capture attention among social scientists in the 1970s; however, transnationalism has become a popular and fashionable topic of research since the 1990s (Basch et al.
1994; Glick Schiller et al. 1992; Smith and Guarnizo 1998; Vertovec 1999). In sociology and anthropology, transnationalism broadly refers to the ties and interactions of people or institutions across the borders of a particular state (Wolf 2002; Vertovec 2009).
A transnational study views the maintenance of migrant ties with the country of origin and migrant practices in the host country in correlation with each other. The flows of transnationalism, migration, knowledge, and political ideas result in new social, economic, and cultural networks, activities, patterns of living, and new ideologies (Lazar 2011, 9). The concepts of transnationalism and migrants are entangled. Migrant transnationalism can be understood as a social phenomenon.
According to Vertovec (2009), the literature on migrant transnationalism has increased in the last decades. The concept of transnationalism needs to account for migrants because migrants provide links between countries of origin and their new place. Migrants also create transnational activities, where the flow of resources takes place. Accordingly, this flow brings about the changes in the social, cultural, economic, and political landscapes of the origin and destination societies.
Shizha (2018) defined transnational migration as “a process of movement and settlement across international borders in which individuals maintain or build multiple
networks of connection to their country of origin while at the same time settling in a new country” (2). He noted that transnational migrants develop multiple and fragmented identities that researchers should analyze in terms of the migrants’
relationship to the global socio-politico-economic space. Transnational migrants create transnational individuals who belong to multiple places that shape the multiple identities of transnational migrants.
Dahinden (2010) looked at transnational formations as the effect of the combination of two dimensions: mobility and locality. She provided insight into the multiplicities of forms of existence (51). She pointed out that degrees of mobility have an essential impact on the different ways. Migrants who settle in their new country will develop forms of transnational space that are different from those of migrants engaged in continuous transnational circulation. However, transnational practices link to the constraints and opportunities of the contexts of the localities in which transnational migrants find themselves (52).
Vertovec (2009), in his book, Transnationalism, pointed out that transnationalism is a manifestation of globalization; its constituent processes and outcomes offer multiple consequences. Vertovec suggested a way of looking at these cross-border phenomena by observing how “the transnational migrant links the different contexts and contributes to changes in both origin and host country” (23).
Those are linkage by networks, which are continually being socially constructed and altered by their members (35). He identified concerns that social networks are not just how people are connected. Social networks also affect the circulation of resources, which can be defined as anything that allows an actor or group to control, provide or apply a sanction to another social actor, for example, money, facilities, labor,
legitimacy, group size, discretionary time, organizing experience, legal skills, even violence (5).
He developed an approach to study transnationalism from below. Vertovec examined transnationalism in six categories: as a social morphology, as a type of consciousness, as a mode of cultural reproduction, as an avenue of capital, as a site of political engagement, and as a (re)construction of place or locality.
1. Transnationalism as a social morphology. The meaning of transnationalism has something to do with a kind of social formation along the borders. Transnational social formations are structures or systems of relationships described as networks (Vertovec 2009, 4). Dense and highly active networks across borders can transform many kinds of social, cultural, economic, and political relationships in both a host and an original country.
2. Transnationalism as a type of consciousness. Dual or multiple identifications mark transnationalism. Hence, there are descriptions of individuals’
awareness of being simultaneously “home away from home,” “here and there” or
“some migrants identify more with one society than the other” (Vertovec 2009, 6).
3. Transnationalism as a mode of cultural reproduction. As a result, from dual or multiple identifications, Vertovec highlighted transformations of identity, memory, awareness and other modes of consciousness and a new transnational imaginary (Wilson and Dissanayake 1996 cited in Vertovec 2009, 7) could reshape a multitude of forms of contemporary cultural production. Transnationalism is often associated with a fluidity of constructed styles, social institutions, and everyday practices.
4. Transnationalism as an avenue of capital. Many economists, sociologists, and geographers have seen transnational corporations as the dominant institutional
form of transnational practices and the key to understanding globalization (Vertovec 2009, 8). The transnational corporations’ systems of supply, production, marketing, investment, information transfer, and management often create the paths along which much of the world’s transnational activities flow (cf. Castells 1996 cited in Vertovec 2009, 8). Resources do not just flow back to people’s country of origin but throughout the network (Vertovec 2009, 9).
5. Transnationalism as a site of political engagement. Ethnic diasporas also undertake transnational political activities. Robin Cohen (1995, 13) reasoned that
‘awareness of their precarious situation may also propel members of diasporas to advance legal and civic causes and to be active in human rights and social justice issues (10-11).
6. Transnationalism as a (re)construction of place or locality. A high degree of human mobility, inter-communications, films, video, and satellite TV, and the Internet have contributed to the creation of trans-local understandings. These understandings are nevertheless anchored in places, with a variety of legal, political, and cultural ramifications, not only for the practices and meanings but for the places as well (Vertovec 2009, 12).
Waldinger and Fitzgerald’s (2014) work approached transnational phenomena from a different angle. They employed a transnational lens to think about the connections between “here” and “there” by looking through connectivity between source and destination as channeled by the social networks. Waldinger and Fitzgerald argued that those networks generate, not one, but a multiplicity of imagined communities (in Anderson 1983). These imagined communities are organized along with different, often conflicting principles, whether related to the scale of aggregation
(local vs. national) or the opposing visions of the community in question (Waldinger and Fitzgerald 2014, 1178).
Along these lines, an understanding of transnational ties and relationships through migrants emerges. In this research, I deploy a transnational lens to look at transnational migrants and the connection these migrants generate between countries and the changes in the social, cultural, economic, and politics of origin and destination in individuals, communities, and societies across borders. I use Vectovec’s (2009) idea of transnationalism from below to examine transnational migrants and their consequences in six categories: as a social morphology, as a type of consciousness, as a mode of cultural reproduction, as an avenue of capital, as a site of political engagement, and as a (re)construction of place or locality.
What is more, transnationalism has also given rise to transnational communities. Next, I would like to bring a notion of community and a notion of belonging into account for analyzing transnational migrants’ livelihood and their community in the borders. Bruneau (2010) described a transnational community as it linked the global to the whole range of highly diverse local networking places, without a hierarchy between these different hubs (43). Due to the movement of people, this perspective renders the characteristics of the concept of community in different ways. I draw heavily on Cohen’s (1985) notion of community in order to understand the community’s place in this contemporary transnational world.
Cohen (1985), set out to deal with a community as an entity symbolically constructed as a system of values, norms, and moral codes, which provided a sense of identity to its members. Cohen understood community by seeking to capture members’ experience of it. He approached the construct of community as a boundary- expressing symbol. A community is an arena in which people obtain their primary
and most essential experience of social life outside the confines of the home. His emphasis is on the meaning of a community as the construct continues to be of both a practical and an ideological significance to most people (Cohen 1985, 8). He explained that people attach their meanings to such prescriptions. Similarly, with symbols, people do not tell us what the symbols mean but instead, give others the capacity to make meaning from the symbols.
He proposed a notion of community to consider relationships within a community by focusing on inclusions and how boundaries foster belonging. These boundaries are mediated by how they produce themselves in communal spaces. In this light, “‘community’ is one of those words—like culture, myth, ritual, symbol—
bandied around in ordinary, everyday speech, apparently readily intelligible to speaker and listener, which, when imported into the discourse of social science, however, causes immense difficulty” (Cohen 1985, 11).
Following his idea, a symbol can mean different things to different people.
This situation exists even when people may be closely associated with each other, for example, as members of the same community or as bearers of the same culture.
Therefore, Cohen opens a question of whether the increase of cultural diversity and ethnic diversification of contemporary societies can lead to the formation of communities of belonging beyond communities of identity. Transnationalism has not only given rise to transnational communities but also a migrant’s sense of belonging.
For this reason, the notion of belonging needs to be brought into an account to develop a framework.
Jones and Krzyzanowski (2008) proposed that “belonging does not necessarily need to be based on ‘objective,’ external sameness, but instead can be posited on more fleeting solidarity” (Jones and Krzyzanowski 2008, 46). In this respect, an
individual can dynamically construct various patterns of belonging, which means an individual can posit herself/himself relative to the collectives of both her/his original community and the society to which she/he has migrated (Jones and Krzyzanowski 2008, 38-39). They have raised interesting questions: How is belonging constructed for and by agents in multiple, contested ways? What are the barriers that exist to formal and informal group memberships?
This scheme of belonging provides a way for us to understand how the internal process of belonging and how the processes which exist outside the self (for instance, why this group allows entry or not) can combine in complex ways. Ottino (1998) explored how sentiments of belonging to a group, in the village of Trunyan in Bali, linked to references about the person’s origin and were enacted through participation in collective activities and rituals (Ottino 1998, 99). Ottino argued that belonging inherently connects the member through participation in a ritual exchange of sustenance between humans and temple deities. This ritual serves to enhance awareness of one’s origin through performance. The performance of ritual exchange is needed for individual worshippers to strengthen the sentiment of belonging to the group (Ottino, 1998, 101). His finding suggests that the ritual exchange serves to enhance the identity of the community as a collective entity, through the enactment of historically significant narratives and representations. Rituals impart the awareness of this collective identity to the group through rituals, which use the natural features of the environment to enhance the rituals’ meaning. If and when the exchange lapses, the sentiment of belonging to the group also declines (Ottino, 1998, 114).
Yuval-Davis (2006) outlined an analytical framework for the study of belonging and the politics of belonging, which is crucial for any critical political discourse on nationalism, racism, or other contemporary politics of belonging. She
argued, “Belonging is about emotional attachment, about feeling ‘at home’” (Yuval- Davis 2006, 197), but “People can ‘belong’ in many different ways and to many different objects of attachments” (199). Yuval-Davis argued that belonging is always a dynamic process, not a reified fixity. She simplifies an understanding of the notion of belonging into three significant analytical levels. The first level concerns social locations; the second relates to individuals’ identifications and emotional attachments to various collectivities and groupings; the third relates to ethical and political value systems with which people judge their own and others’ belongings.
To summarize, the literature review on border studies and transnationalism concepts revealed that borders matter. Borders are arenas, which powerfully shape people’s lives. Previous studies reveal that borders are not only a barrier that limits possibilities, but territories where a state excises its power to utilize and to manage their human, economic, natural, and territorial authority (Yos 2005, Murphy 2010, Kolossov and Scott 2013). Besides, borders act as an arena where there is an on-going flow of people, goods, culture, and also a place for displaced persons, migrants, and migrant workers (Yos 2005, Agnew 2008, Wasan 2008). For this reason, borders reflect complex sets of human relationships, networks, control mechanisms, economic, social, and cultural practices: it is where the flow of many types of resources take place—flows of migration, knowledge, goods, and political ideas (Lazar 2011, 9).
Border commuters not only create a greater degree of connection between the countries of origin and the new place for individuals, communities, and societies, but borders also create transnational phenomena: transnational communities, transnational activities, and transnational practices that result in constructing a migrant’s sense of belonging in a segmented way (Yuval-Davis 2006). From this perspective, borders
allow us to see state power and control. By looking through the borders, we see relationships, interactions, and conflict from many actors. The cultural practices of many people who have a varied history of mobility, exile, and transnational experiences create these interactions.
However, borders exist for a variety of practical reasons, and their existence has both negative and positive effects. Themes of opportunity (Agnew 2008, Seglow 2005) characterize border studies—whether economic, social, or cultural—and themes of constraint or struggle (Tyerman 2016, Pitch 2007, De Genova 2014). I suggest thinking about borders as a dynamic center (in my case, the Southeast Asian countries—the Thai-Myanmar border) or transition zone that seeks to improve the economic well-being and enhance the life chances of migrants and the next generations of their families.
I do not argue that no struggles or contradictions occur along the border. I want to bring the argument further by thinking about borders beyond their present limitations and focus on how migrants can benefit from borders and how migrants use a transnational network and transnational practices to live advantageously. I propose to think about borders a transition zone (Newman 2003) where migrants live and remake their lives in new settings. A place where migrants pursue a decent life and economic or social opportunity that extends beyond the borders of any particular state. I argue that borders present challenges to people daily as well as provide social and economic opportunities that extend beyond the confines of a nation-state.
Moreover, I also argue that cross-border experiences enable these differences to be distinct, particularly the issue of identity and belonging among an ethnic group, for example, Tai Lue ethnic group.
My research frames the border not only as a place where the sovereign power of a particular state is dominant. A border is an area of continually challenged, contested, and negotiated social, cultural, and state power. The borderlanders or migrants challenge and interplay the formal (nation-state) rules related to migration and development policy. Borders become a resource that advantageous people connect with, within, and across borders. People use borders to frame diverse livelihood strategies and dwelling choices; in the latter, we will see how the migrants posit themselves and dialogue with the other actors (e.g., in this case, the same ethnic group of prior and recent migrants, other ethnic groups, and the government) coexisting along the borders.
Ethnicity is a complex phenomenon, made more complicated by the condition of living in a border area. Border communities have numerous ethnic groups co-existing with each other, for example, Thai—Myanmar borders or the U.S.A.—Mexico borders. Therefore, borders are multicultural sites consisting of various ethnicities that researchers need to consider when examining transition zones. In this section, I present literature about ethnicity, its importance to borders, and conclude by addressing how I apply this concept in this research project.
Isajiw (1993) outlined four significant approaches to ethnicity. These approaches are (1) ethnicity conceived as a primordial phenomenon, (2) ethnicity conceived as an epiphenomenon, (3) ethnicity conceived as a situational phenomenon, and (4) ethnicity conceived as a purely subjective phenomenon. The primordial approach represents the oldest model found in sociological and anthropological
at birth, deriving from the kin-and-clan-structure of human society, and hence something more or less fixed and permanent (Geertz 1963; Isaacs 1975; Stack 1986 cited in Isajiw 1993, 2). Researchers raised the other three approaches in response to the primordial approach.
Hecther’s epiphenomenon approach presents a theory focused on issues of internal colonialism and the cultural division of labor. The model derives its position derived from the assumption that all culture was phenomena to class. Therefore, in this sense, ethnicity is something created and maintained by an uneven economy, or a product of economic exploitation (see also Nagel and Olzak 1982 cited in Isajiw 1993, 2-3).
The third approach, the situational approach, rests on rational choice theory.
According to this approach, “ethnicity is something which may be relevant in some situations but not in others. Individuals may choose to be regarded as members of an ethnic group if they find it to their advantage. Perhaps the best example of this approach is the work of Michael Banton (1983), Daniel Bell (1975), and Jeffrey Ross (1982)” (Isajiw 1993, 4).
The subjectivist approach represents the final approach identified by Isajiw (1993). This approach examines ethnicity, in connection with the post-modernist movement in contemporary thought—constructionism. Isajiw invokes Foucault and Bourdieu in his description of the theory, “theoretically, this approach lies somewhere between Michel Foucault’s (1967) emphasis on the construction of the metaphor and Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977) notions of practice and habitus as the basic factors shaping the structure of all social phenomena.... [T]he basic notion in this approach is that ethnicity is something that is being negotiated and constructed in everyday living.
Ethnicity is a process, which continues to unfold. It is constructed in the process of feeding, clothing, sending to school, and conversing with children and others.”
In addition to these approaches for studying ethnicity, several scholars have given a great deal of attention to ethnic boundaries and ethnic politics as they studied ethnicity in plural societies. A Norwegian anthropologist, Barth (1969), highlighted differences between the groups and these cultural differences as these differences affected the formation of boundaries distinguishing “us” from “them.” He pointed out,
“Ethnic groups are categories of ascription and identification by the actors themselves” (Barth 1969, 10). Barth based his concept of ethnicity not on objective reality, but instead, the religion or rituals that serve to identify these subjective ethnic boundaries.
In this light, ethnicity is not fixed but situational and subjective (Barth 1969, 38). Barth argued that the focus should be placed on the boundaries between groups, not on the groups themselves because, at these boundaries, ethnicity is constructed.
Barth separates ethnicity from culture and considers ethnicity as an ever-changing, socially constructed, subjective construct (Barth 1969, 40). For Barth, ethnic boundaries were mental boundaries; therefore, ethnic culture and its content are irrelevant. An ethnic group is hence a result of group relations in which the boundaries are established through mutual perceptions and not through any objectively distinct culture.
Eriksen (1993) in Ethnicity and Nationalism defined the term, ethnicity as the
“relationships between groups whose members consider themselves distinctive, and these groups are often ranked hierarchically within a society” (Eriksen 1993, 10). He expanded his definition by declaring that “groups and identities have developed in mutual contact rather than in isolation” (Eriksen 1993, 15). Therefore, ethnicity is
thus constituted through social contact and emerges through relevant encounters, and through people’s ways of battling life’s challenges. Moerman (1965) presented general aspects of these contact processes in a pioneering study of ethnic relations in Thailand. Moerman asked the Tai Lue living in Thailand a question, “Who are the Lue?” because he found it difficult to describe who they were—in what ways were they distinctive from other ethnic groups? Moerman concluded that “someone is Lue by believing and calling himself Lue and of acting in ways that validate his Lueness”
(1965, 1219 cited in Eriksen 1993, 16).
What Eriksen learns from Moerman is that “this [Tai] ‘Lueness’ cannot be defined with reference to objective cultural features or clear-cut boundaries, Moerman defines it as a category of ascription.” From this perspective, ethnicity is an aspect of the social relationship between persons who consider themselves as fundamentally distinctive from members of other groups and with whom they enter into relationships (Eriksen 1993, 17). Eriksen stressed that ethnicity, refers both to aspects of gain and loss in interaction; it has a political and organizational aspect as well as a meaningful symbolical one. In this light, when an individual move between social contexts, the relative importance of his or her ethnic membership changes (Eriksen 1993, 25). This movement results in the many “selves” of an individual according to the groups to which he/she belongs and the extent to which each of these groups is isolated from or interacts with the others.
Cohen explained, “ethnicity has become a mode of action and of representation: it refers to a decision people make to depict themselves or others symbolically as the bearers of a certain cultural identity” (Cohen 1994, 50) and “it has become the politicization of culture; thus it is rarely neutral” (51). Cohen pointed out that culture, identity, and symbolism converge upon the concept of ethnicity. He
observes ethnicity in the realm of the political expression of cultural identity. Culture, in his view, is “the means by which we make meaning, and with which make the world meaningful to ourselves. It is articulated by symbols; thus, symbols are quite simply carriers of meaning.” He suggested that an ethnic identity means different things to those who participate in it, and the ethnic boundary is situational—invoked to some groups and for some purposes (Cohen 1994, 52). Therefore, it directs us to the question of how ethnicity can have these infinitely variable meanings while still retaining its coherent expression.
A notion of ethnicity has proven a highly useful concept. Different approaches to understanding ethnicity have been used by different social scientists when trying to understand the nature of ethnicity as a factor in human life and society. All of the approaches of anthropology nevertheless agree that ethnicity has something to do with the classification of people and group relationships.
In summary, to understand phenomena happening within and across borders. I employ a notion of ethnicity as an essential element to understanding borders. Borders provide a mirror of social relations from past to present, consisting of various types of ethnicities. To investigate the dynamic relationship between different types of actors—in this case, the relationships of the same ethnic group of prior and recent migrants and their relationships with the different ethnic groups along the border, I will draw heavily on Barth’s (1969) and Eriksen’s (1993) notion of ethnicity. They agree that ethnicity is an outcome of interrelationships with different groups.
Following Barth’s idea, ethnicity emerges as a result of group relations which establish the ethnic boundaries. He examined the boundaries between groups, not on the groups themselves, arguing that it was at these boundaries that ethnicity is constructed. Furthermore, Eriksen referred to ethnicity as having both aspects of gain
and loss in interrelations due to the mobility between social contexts that resulted in the relative importance of ethnic membership changes.
I posit and explore ethnicity, not as something that is given, fixed, or permanent, but rather, something that is situational and subjective. In the research study, I apply this approach to understand the relationship between ethnic groups along the border. However, I am not investigating the boundaries between ethnic groups but the groups themselves. I attempt to learn the extent to which these boundaries are constructed and realized as a particular ethnic group remakes their lives in a new setting and pursue a decent life with economic or social opportunities.
I seek to demonstrate this issue for three reasons. First, there is an on-going flow of many different types of resources—e.g., people, ideas, and knowledge within and beyond borders, which has affected borderlander’s lives. Second, the arrivals of ethnic groups at different times have formed a multicultural community, which plays a vital role in the development of borders with varied economic activities as well as social and cultural practices. Third, government policy has a great effect on border development and control. My research uses the notion of ethnicity to challenge the relationships among the same ethnic group—a former migrant and a recent migrant (their arrivals at different times have formed differing senses of belonging).
I suggest ways in which thinking about ethnicity issues within the border context can contribute to a better understanding of ethnic boundaries, intra-ethnic hierarchy and their relationships, and ethnic politics (conflict, contradiction, power relationships) within and beyond borders. By thinking about ethnic boundaries, I open two broader questions. First, to what degree are intra-ethnic group boundaries realized? Second, to what extent is ethnicity constructed in relation to nation-states in the border context at these boundaries? These experiences have led new or recent
migrants (in this case study—recent Tai Lue transnational migrants) to adjust their livelihood and remake their lives in new settings as well as manage and negotiate their relationships with the other actors in this context.
1.4.3 relevant research on Tai Lue study
Many studies have investigated Tai Lue ethnic groups in different regions using different focal points. In this section, I provide a literature review on relevant previous studies about the Tai Lue. Later, I identify how this research project contributes to Tai Lue literature.
Moerman (1965) made a significant contribution work to Tai Lue studies.
Moerman was interested in finding ethnic labeling or signs of ethnic identification.
His study focused on a Tai Lue community—where people called themselves Lue, and their language was Lue. Their neighbors also called them Lue. His question was in what ways and to what extent are their language and behavior similar to those of Lue communities elsewhere. He then raised a question, “Who are the Lue?” He found that “[Tai] Lue cannot be viewed in isolation… It is necessary to view every social entity as part of a larger system, which includes its neighbors” (Moerman 1965, 1216). He explained that Tai Lue does not have the same meaning everywhere. For instance, the signs, which mean Lue in Chiang Kham, are merely regional peculiarities that are different from Tai Lue elsewhere (Moerman 1965, 1219).
Therefore, in terms of finding ethnic labeling, for Moerman—the labels by which people identify themselves and are identified by others and that represent essential and convenient signs of ethnic membership (Moerman 1965, 1219)—we need to take a look at the different dimensions, comparing the criteria used by entities
that interact, determining whether such criteria are consciously manipulated, and analyzing the mechanisms which maintain and inculcate the practice of the criteria through which members identify themselves or are recognized by others.
My question is to understand who are the Tai Lue in the present-day—if the sign/label of Tai Lue are different everywhere, and ethnic labeling is inculcated by interaction and consciously manipulating— since Tai Lue is based on identification, how do we analyze the way members identify themselves or are recognized by others (both in the manner of intra- and inter-ethnic groups)? The meanings of Tai Lue are different everywhere. Therefore, we need to look at the difference in the signs of Tai Lue ethnic identification. To what extent do people use the term differently, and to what benefit does that difference bring?
Keyes (1992) revisited Moerman’s work. He returned to Moerman’s question but expanded it to include peoples in three countries—Laos and China, as well as Thailand. From his study, Keyes suggested, “Lue identity is being constructed in quite different ways in each of these states because their ethnicity has been shaped by quite distinctive national cultures (Keyes 1992, 4).” He argued that there must also be a practical reason for people to assert an inherent ethnic distinctiveness from other people with whom they interact (Keyes 1992, 2). Each of the categories subsumes peoples who recognize themselves as having identities quite different from those of others in the same category (Keyes 1992, 20).
Reflecting upon Keyes’s 1992 study, I wondered if we attempt to understand the Tai Lue in the matter of identity or Lue-ness—what makes their understanding or their sense of identity different from each other among the same Tai Lue group and how is this identity constructed? Cohen (1998) built on Keyes’s 1992 work. Cohen focused on the relation between Lue ethnic identification and territorial cults. He