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

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Westview Press, Jul 1, 1999 - Social Science - 285 pages
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After the Vietnam War, socialist governments ascended to power in all the countries of the former Indochina. In Laos, more than a decade of socialist reorganization was followed by economic liberalization in the late 1980s. Laotian women had traditionally sustained the household and local economy with their work in field, forest, and family, but political and economic changes markedly affected the context of rural women’s prevailing sources of power and subordination. Socialist policies, for example, curtailed women’s commercial activities while recognizing women’s work in agriculture and child care.In this richly detailed volume, Carol Ireson draws on ten years of fieldwork and research to explore this metamorphosis among Laotian women. Throughout, she poses questions such as: What has happened to women’s traditional sources of control over their own and others’ activities since the 1975 socialist revolution? Have their traditional sources of power or autonomy expanded or contracted as changing conditions have allowed other groups to appropriate women’s traditional resources and roles? Have the dramatic changes had different effects on rural women of differing ethnic backgrounds and varying economic means?Focusing on women from three major ethnic groups—the lowland Lao, the Khmu, and the Hmong—Ireson examines the different ways they have responded to political and economic changes. She shows us that the Laotian experience reveals in microcosm the processes of change toward specialization and integration of women’s work into national and global economies and explains how this shift deeply affects women’s lives.

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Women Power Subordination and Development
History Society and the Situation of Women
Traditional Sources of Power in Rural Womens lives
Women of Luang Prabang
Womens Changing Agricultural Activities
Forest Gathering Crafts and Marketing
Family Home and Children
Politics of Gender and Development Transformation
Activities of the Lao Womens Union
Transformation of the Womens Union
Work Power and Development

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Page 45 - ... three revolutions : in the relations of production, in science and technology, and in ideology and culture...
Page 8 - Iroquois society was not based on their economic contribution per se. Women make an essential economic contribution in all societies, but their status depends on how this contribution is structured. The issue is whether they control the conditions of their work and the dispensation of the goods they produce.
Page 199 - It is inappropriate, indeed stupid, for any party to implement a policy of forbidding the people to exchange goods or to carry out trading.
Page 189 - In short, women with access to both old-growth forest and second-growth areas use forest products to supplement their relatively more adequate subsistence rice crop. Small amounts of family surplus crop production and sale of animals seem to meet these women's minimal cash needs. Women with access only to second-growth areas, on the other hand, may have a somewhat more commercial view of the forest and forest products. Although these women visit the forest less frequently, they are twice as likely...
Page 26 - a crisis now affects both the world economic system and the structures through which the majority of the world's populations reproduce themselves (the process by which human beings meet their basic needs and survive from one day to the next) (p.
Page 189 - Interestingly, the income sources reported in villages with access only to second-growth areas are mainly exploited by women (selling forest products, selling cooked food or whiskey, or shopkeeping), with the exception of clearing forest and planting seedlings, tasks PHOTO 6,2 Ethnic Lao women regularly produce cloth for family use.
Page 13 - ... UN process. Even more, these conferences fostered the internationalization of the women's movement; out of Nairobi emerged a variety of global networks based on Third World women to complement and balance the earlier American and European organizing efforts. There is widespread agreement among them that only through connecting women's views of human priorities to national and global issues can women gain access to meaningful resources.
Page 68 - Condominas before their village was destroyed by war in 1962). Among this group, wild foods, "especially bamboo shoots, were eaten in the greatest numbers when the rice was growing but not yet harvested

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About the author (1999)

Carol Ireson is professor of sociology at Willamette University.

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