Asking the Spirit’s for Permission: Khmu Perspectives on Land Ownership in Northern Lao PDR

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 16:00
, Michelle - CSU Sacramento and Univeristy of Nevada, Reno

Through the use of participatory photography, this research looks at Khmu traditional beliefs about the land. The Khmu indigenous group resides in the mid-altitude regions of the Lao PDR. Research was conducted in six subsistence based villages in Northern Lao PDR to gain an understanding of local practices concerning culture, agriculture and land use. Participatory photography is an effective methodology to help outside researchers gain an emic perspective on a variety of local topics. My research questions included topics concerning agriculture, traditional religious beliefs about the land and village development. Eighty-nine villagers were taught how to use digital cameras and answer questions with photos. This session will present a photo essay utilizing local photographer’s images to highlight some aspects of Khmu beliefs about the land including a detailed description of the ritualized three step process of asking the spirits for permission to conduct agriculture on specific plots of land.