At the turn of the twentieth century, the French colonial administration
adopted various strategies and tactics to ‘pacify’ and control the
culturally heterogeneous regions dividing the lowland realms of the Lao
and Vietnamese courts, while upland powerbrokers aimed to forge strategic
alliances with the new colonial power. This article takes the concept
of mimesis as a means to explore the interplay of alterity and identity.
With reference to the work of Michael Taussig, along with other theories
of imitation, I will discuss processes of mutual appropriation and differentiation
within the precarious relationship between colonizers and colonized.
Mimesis here provides an alternative reading of upland Southeast
Asian history beyond the binaries of dominance and resistance prevalent
in James C. Scott’s recent work on the anarchist history of zomia.