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Keywords:

  • agrarian studies;
  • South-East Asia;
  • rural change

Abstract

This paper examines the recent revival of agrarian studies in the social science scholarship of South-East Asia following a period of decline from the 1980s onward. The hiatus provides an opportunity to examine the changed empirical contexts and theoretical framings of agrarian change in the intervening period. Renewed interest in rural agricultural and social change is also marked by a disciplinary shift, with the centre of gravity moving away from anthropology and political science and towards a geographical focus. This is explained both by institutional factors, as a large international research programme based in (but not limited to) geography has taken the lead on the revival, and also by the substantive shift in agrarian studies away from narrowly local village ethnographies or broad-based scholarship inspired by Cold War concerns, towards a multi-scale and contextualised approach in which environment, globalisation, migration, territorial expansion, spatial inequality, and other key geographical themes have framed explorations of agrarian change.