Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Since ten years, the Bunong, an indigenous people from Cambodia, lost vast parts of their customary land to rubber plantations. Although their current settlement areas are not impacted by the companies, everything else is affected: their swidden sites, cattle grounds, forest resources, sacred places, burial grounds and former settlement areas. Displacement as defined here includes the experience of remaining in place while being powerless to prevent the removal or loss of all that is familiar. Drawing from my anthropological research on the social, cultural, political and livelihood impacts of displacement on the Bunong, the presentation focuses on methodological challenges to adequately assess and document land’s meanings and values and peoples’ loss of sense of place and belonging. How do we explore the cultural and social dimensions of the loss of communities’ meaningful places, valued resources, and social, economic and cultural practices? How do we grasp and articulate the impact of the sudden erasure of familiar sensory and physical markers on displaced communities? A reflection on such methodological challenges allows for reasoning on the many dimensions of disruption of existing land-based relations that go far beyond mere economic considerations and encompass people’s sense of place, belonging, and identity. It enhances our understanding of the effects of development-forced displacement on the people ‘in the way’. It also explores possibilities of redistribution and remedy starting from affected peoples’ understandings of impacts.