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ANU presents

Culture village: the politics of recognition in Laos

Public seminar


19th August 2015


Seminar Room A/B, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU


Dr Holly High, Senior Research Fellow, University of Sydney.



The Lao government is pursuing a policy of building people, households and villages of culture as part of its strategy for economic development and overall improvement. This talk is based on research in a certified culture village in the south of Laos.

It is an ethnic Katu village, and Dr Holly High considers the culture village policies in terms of the particularities of inter-ethnic relations in Laos. Dr High argues that these are distinct from the liberal multicultural politics of recognition that we are familiar with in Australia, where concerns with relativism, authenticity and tolerance (and their limits) are paramount. Instead, the core concerns in the Lao politics of recognition are struggle, impermanence and improvement. While this conception of culture harks back to 19th Century evolutionist approaches, Dr High proposes that we seek ways of understanding this line of thinking not just as an embarrassing echo of anthropology’s intellectual past but also as an ever-present possibility for the culture concept now and in the future.

Dr Holly High is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, at the University of Sydney.


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