Zomia 2.0

Branding remoteness and neoliberal connectivity in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, Laos

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
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Since the 1990s, several ‘special zones’ have appeared along China's border with Myanmar and Laos. Often described as lawless enclaves of vice, gambling and smuggling, the study of those spaces has focused mostly on their exceptionality and ambiguous form of sovereignty. However, rather than simply keeping the state out, those special zones bring the state in, through investments, infrastructures and deals with government officials. Through an analysis of the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, in northern Laos, this paper argues that it is precisely through the ambiguous presence of the state that these spaces manage to maintain a unique level of autonomy. Moving from James Scott's famous discussion of highland communities in Southeast Asia, I term this Zomia 2.0: a modern attempt to keep the state out at the edges of Asia's greatest power, characterised as much by political remoteness as by neoliberal connectivity.


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