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Interethnic systems and localized identities: The Khmu subgroups (Tmoy) in north-west Laos

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the history of interethnic relationships and social change amongst Khmu villages of the Nam Tha valley, in northwest Laos. It uses three kinds of data: accounts of the area by colonial explorers or administrators, ethnographic studies, such as those of Karl Gustav Izikowitz on the Lamet, or of Damrong Tayanin on the Khmou, and author's personal field data collected since 1994. The chapter demonstrates that the differences between Khmu and Kachin relate mainly to their different interethnic contexts, particularly their contrasting history of relations with lowland populations. Despite these differences, it argues against Cooper’s critique, and in support of the continuing topical value of the Leachian framework. The author investigates origin and characteristics of the numerous Khmu tmoy (subgroups), and shows how these intra-ethnic solidarities still influence local social and political dynamics.

Keywords: Edmund Leach; Kachin Hills; Khmu tmoy; Khmu village; Nam Tha valley



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