Organized Panel Session
Mining can produce profound restructuring of relationships between humans and their environments, within communities and beyond. By adopting a historical ecology approach, this panel investigates the human-environment nexus inherent in resource extraction. This approach is key to understanding sociocultural and environmental transformations engendered by diverse mining economies. Digging for coal, other minerals, gold, and gemstones through large-scale industrial mining or artisanal extractive practices produces far-reaching material changes in the environment, shifts in the interactions between humans and their environments, to changing patterns of labor mobility, livelihood seeking, and other social changes.
Our case studies provide three vantage points for the analysis of historical and contemporary mining contexts: labor practice and mobility, ethnic relations and the use of natural resources. How did the gem mines in the borderlands between colonial Indochina and Siam become refuges from which miners from the Shan States and Burma sought to re-order politics in their respective homelands? How did the protection of water in colonial Tonkin expose the conflicts of interest between a big city, a coal mining company, and local populations? How did Vietnamese labor migration alter local sociocultural configurations in the tin mines of Laos? And how have labor and small-scale technological mining interventions transformed agrarian relations in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, in two radically different periods – the late 18th/early 19th century? Our interdisciplinary approach provides a critical lens through which to explore the transformative processes of mining, and their relevance to contemporary Southeast Asian mining economies.