Development and Urbanization
The increasing integration of even small communities into capitalist economies, the expansion of state control, ambitious plans of national and local governments as well as the increasing commodification of land and other natural resources accelerate environmental, economic and social transformations all over Southeast Asia with far reaching implications for rural livelihoods. Here change often implies the shift from swidden agriculture to more intense forms of land use, from subsistence economy to wage labour, from self-determination to increasing dependencies and from life in the village to living in growing semi-urban centres.
So far, these transformations have been approached predominantly from the past. In this paper I explore rural transformations as expressions of future-making, drawing on the emerging field of future studies within social and cultural anthropology, where the future is not understood as simply emerging from the past, but as being actively shaped in a complex interplay of numerous actors and interests in the present. Taking a Dayak community in East Kalimantan as example, the paper explores what it means for rural people in the Southeast Asian uplands when they wish to achieve “better” lives for themselves and their children. I argue that paying more attention to the aspirations of local people and how they translate their images of the future into action will enrich our understanding of rural transformations.