We would like to extend a call for papers Edited by Sukanlaya Choenkwan and Micah Fisher on Agrarian Transformations in Thailand – Commodities, Landscapes, and Livelihoods
Over the last two decades, there have been extensive discussions about the priorities and processes of agrarian and rural transformation in Thailand. The production and value systems surrounding agricultural transformation involves the overall restructuring of a subsistence-oriented economy to a market-oriented one. Agricultural households are increasingly prioritizing and becoming more dependent on intensive and specialized production of cash crops. Rural livelihoods are also relying more on off-farm income generated by local urban centers or remittances sent back from migrant workers. Although outmigration and the remittance economy has supported rural households, there are also other consequences, most evident in the scarcity and changing labor practices in agricultural sectors. This transformation is affecting rural society in perplexing ways, such as the decline in poverty rates, the increasing levels of economic differentiation, improving access to education, and the perceived withering of community solidarity. These trends of agrarian transformation reflexively interact with broader developments in Thai society, related to an increasing population, processes of urbanization, public policy interventions, natural resources limitations, and changing societal values.
This special section attempts to provide a picture of the processes of transformation over time and examine the current conjunctures taking place across rural communities in Thailand. Our entry point is through the lens of agricultural commodities. We believe that explaining the multiple sources and effects of certain commodities in particular locations in Thailand provides distinct explanatory potential. For example, rubber, a crop originally grown in the South of Thailand has been widely introduced in the northeast region for the past 30 years, affecting local community dynamics, creating new projects, changing cultivation practices, and initiating new ways of interacting with the state and international markets. Another example is rice, an important staple crop for rural households, grown widespread across the country. Rice farmers have been directly affected by agricultural policies from various government policies in the last two decades. Currently, vast stretches of paddy fields are being converted to other cash crops. Farmers are facing new choices to choose a staple, plant cash crops, and migrate seasonally to find work in other business sectors. Other examples include agricultural commodities geared to supporting a vision of tourism, illicit agricultural production of poppies in upland and border areas, and a multitude of others.
Agrarian transformation provides perplexing, contradictory, and paradoxical effects, which can at once empower and dispossess. We are open to any papers that examine agrarian transformation through the lens of longstanding or newly introduced (or lack thereof) commodities that allows for a better understanding of change taking place across Thai rural society.