Revival: Remains of War in Laos
This dissertation examines how legacies of war and ongoing violence are incorporated into peacetime development in contemporary Laos. I introduce the conceptual parallel of remains and revivals. By “remains,” I refer to massive military wastes left over from the Secret War in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s. During the Vietnam War, Laos was secretly bombed by the United States for nearly a decade. As a result of this covert conflict, contemporary Laos is the most massively cluster-bombed country in the world. Dangerous explosives continue to maim and kill; the risk of explosion frustrates plans to lure investors and build basic infrastructure. Remains also refers to the ongoing sociocultural impact of violence, including experiences of malicious ghosts and personal misfortune. By “revival,” I refer to the present period of rapid socioeconomic transformation as Laos opens to foreign intervention. I use revival as a touchstone for several interweaving processes: socioeconomic liberalization, authoritarian renovation, and religious awakening. Drawing on ethnographic evidence of Lao poetic parallelism, I innovate a method of poetic inquiry suited to hazardous fieldwork.