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Department of Anthropology
padwe [at] hawaii [dot] edu
Bio: Jonathan Padwe is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa. His research explores the production of nature and culture in borderlands and frontiers. He is currently at work on a book manuscript, tentatively titled Written on the Land: Violence and Social Formation on a Cambodian Frontier. The book tells the story of post-war land use change and “development” from the point of view of a small village near the Vietnam border in northeast Cambodia, and is based on years of ethnographic field research with the Jarai highland minority group. He previously conducted extensive field research with Aché foragers in eastern Paraguay.
Projects: I’m particularly interested in farmers’ understandings of nature, and the ways that nature is used in practices of identity formation and the establishment of territory. To date, I’ve worked intensively with a small group of villages along the middle-Sesan River near the Cambodia-Vietnam border. My work traces Jarai plant-knowledge, and practices of remembrance, along networks that stretch from the highlands of Vietnam and Cambodia to communities of the Jarai diaspora in the United States and Europe.
I am currently at work on a book manuscript that explores nature, territory and belonging in Cambodia’s northeast highlands, and examines connections between the region’s turbulent political history and practices of understanding and transforming the environment. For this project, I worked closely with Jarai-speaking swidden farmers, who experienced the Vietnam War and the Cambodian genocide not only as human tragedies, but as environmental crises, too.
I also have several projects under development. These include: (1) research on the idea of indigeneity and its antecedents in mainland Southeast Asia; and (2) a study of the new rubber plantation landscape of northeast Cambodia. In both of these projects, I’m interested to understand how the experience of a rapidly changing agrarian political economy affects the lives and social identities of marginal peoples who are increasingly relegated to interstitial spaces on the margins of large-scale development projects.