Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Enclaves of Improvement: Sovereignty and Developmentalism in the Special Zones of the China-Lao Borderlands

  • Pál Nyíri (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

The highlands of mainland Southeast Asia have famously been the locus of “Zomia,” polities resistant to control by lowland nation-states, but this relative resilience has been due to their marginality. However, as even remote borderlands connect to the market economies of what has been labeled the “Greater Mekong Subregion,” these semi-independent polities are trying to transform themselves from isolated drug enclaves into regional paragons of economic modernity labeled “Special Economic Zones.” The main actors in this transformation are ethnic Chinese migrant capitalists who embrace the economic rhetoric of mainland China's “growth model” to create respectability and to evoke images of a cosmopolitan future as they build casinos in the rainforest. The zones’ claim to be the vanguard of modernity rests on two mutually contradictory sets of symbols: a mimicry of Chinese state paraphernalia designed to conjure up the efficacy of a strong developmental state, and the discourse of freedom from state control. This article examines the transformation of zones of political and criminal resistance into zones of economic development from a historical perspective of changing practices of sovereignty and shifting understandings of development.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Enclaves of Improvement: Sovereignty and Developmentalism in the Special Zones of the China-Lao Borderlands
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Enclaves of Improvement: Sovereignty and Developmentalism in the Special Zones of the China-Lao Borderlands
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Enclaves of Improvement: Sovereignty and Developmentalism in the Special Zones of the China-Lao Borderlands
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
p.d.nyiri@vu.nl
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Arjun Appadurai . 1993. Patriotism and Its Futures. Public Culture 5, 3: 411–30.

Edna Bonacich . 1973. Theory of Middleman Minorities. American Sociological Review 38: 583–94.

Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin . 1993. Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity. Critical Inquiry 19: 693725.

Wen-Chin Chang . 2001. From War Refugees to Immigrants: The Case of the KMT Yunnanese Chinese in Northern Thailand. International Migration Review 35, 4: 1086–105.

James Ferguson . 2006. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stephen D. Krasner 2004. Sharing Sovereignty: New Institutions for Collapsed and Failing States. International Security 29: 85120.

Chris Lyttleton and Pál Nyíri . 2011. Dams, Casinos and Concessions: Chinese Megaprojects in Laos and Cambodia. In Stanley D. Brunn , ed., Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Megaengineering Projects. London and New York: Springer, v. 2.

Pál Nyíri . 2011. Chinese Entrepreneurs in Poor Countries: A Transnational “Middleman Minority” and Its Futures. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 12, 1: 145–53.

Aihwa Ong . 1999. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Aihwa Ong . 2000. Graduated Sovereignty in Southeast Asia. Theory, Culture, and Society 17, 4: 5575.

Aihwa Ong . 2006. Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Mandy Sadan and Francois Robinne , eds. 2007. Social Dynamics in the Highlands of South East Asia: Reconsidering ‘Political Systems of Highland Burma’ by E. R. Leach. Leiden: Brill.

Willem van Schendel . 2002. Geographies of Knowing, Geographies of Ignorance: Jumping Scale in Southeast Asia. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20, 6: 647–68.

Stanley Tambiah . 1977. The Galactic Polity: The Structure of Traditional Kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 293: 6997.

Luigi Tomba . 2009. Of Quality, Harmony, and Community: Civilization and the Middle Class in Urban China. Positions 17, 3: 592616.

Peter Van der Veer . 1996. Introduction. In Conversion to Modernities: The Globalization of Christianity. London and New York: Routledge.

J. T. Walker 1892. Expeditions among the Kachin Tribes on the Northeast Frontier of Upper Burma. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (n.s.) 14: 161–72.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 127 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 320 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.