Projectland: Life in a Lao Socialist Model Village with Associate Professor Holly High


In her latest book, Projectland: Life in a Lao Socialist Model Village (University of Hawaii Press), due out in May 2021, Associate Professor Holly High argues that socialism remains an important consideration in understanding “the politics of culture and the culture of politics” in Laos. She contends that understanding socialism in Laos requires moving past the ideological condemnations and emotion-laden judgements that marked the Cold War era, as well as paying attention to everyday experience.

In this episode, Associate Professor Holly High talks to Dr Natali Pearson about her decades-long anthropological fieldwork in rural parts of Laos, recounting little-known stories of life in a remote village in Sekong Province. She explores the role of the State in shaping local aspirations, world views and beliefs, as well as discusses notions of gender and how socialist values of equality, unity and independence have influenced the lives of women in one of Laos' model villages.

Warning: This episode contains discussions of gender-based violence which may be distressing to some listeners. Listener discretion is advised.

Associate Professor Holly High is Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. She has been researching Lao PDR since the year 2000. Her work has been characterised by long-term fieldwork in rural and remote Laos, where she studies everyday experience in relation to larger issues in Laos and the world. Her research has looked at poverty reduction projects and agricultural, cultural, and health policies. In 2020, Associate Professor Holly High was awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship for her work on reproductive health policy rollout in Laos.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website here.

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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