Indigenous livelihoods and land claims in North-East Cambodia

Crawford School of Public Policy | Resources, Environment and Development Group

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 06 June 2024


ANU Online Zoom Meeting


Sarou Long


Simon West

Cambodia’s upland regions are currently sites of contest and conflict over land between diverse actors, including the Indigenous populations that hold customary rights to these landscapes. In North-East Cambodia, the state has exerted its authority and control over resources and lands by zoning customary lands as protected areas or by granting land concessions to plantation companies. Conservation NGOs have also been entangled in green grabs and forest carbon schemes in collaboration with state institutions. Lowland migrants and powerful elites also enter Indigenous landscapes to similarly take customary lands. This research explores how Indigenous communities engage with these diverse institutions, actors and interventions to negotiate their land claims and livelihoods, and how these negotiations in turn shape their lives and relationships to land.

I employ the lens of “bricolage” as the analytical framework to understand these diverse strategies and practices. Bricolage is a process whereby people combine their resources, networks, customary and novel institutions to negotiate their resource claims (after Cleaver 2012). My use of the concept of bricolage goes beyond existing studies of local resistance to understand how Indigenous groups engage in everyday interactions to secure customary lands and progress their livelihoods. Although these bricolage practices do not necessarily deliver land security to Indigenous groups or change the status quo, they represent spaces of agency for land ties and livelihoods to continue in highly contingent ways.

My research draws on two case studies that worked with Indigenous Bunong communities in Mondulkiri, Cambodia, using mixed methods. I used qualitative methods (online interviews, document reviews, and ethnographical work), mapping to understand land relations, and household surveys to understand livelihoods. Collectively, these research methods enabled me to closely examine local strategies to progress Indigenous land claims and livelihoods.

Bio: Sarou Long is PhD candidate under the primary supervision of Professor Sango Mahanty in Resources, Environment and Development group, Crawford School of Public Policy. Before his PhD studies at ANU, Sarou worked in local and international NGOs in Cambodia for over 10 years, with a focus on natural resource management and local livelihood development.

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