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The rugged Lao-Vietnamese borderlands have long been a zone of refuge and encounter, of conflict and exchange. This is particularly true for the early years of French colonial expansion, when local powerbrokers from diverse ethnic groups assessed, negotiated or resisted this new power. Scrutinizing the multiethnic upland polity of Houaphan, today a province of Laos sharing a long border with Vietnam, this presentation investigates local encounters and interactions across cultural difference, as well as corresponding mimetic entanglements. The concept of mimesis – understood here as interplay between mutual adaptation and appropriation – serves as heuristic tool to explore sociopolitical relations in upland Southeast Asia from a local microperspective. Arguably, mimetic entanglements – along political, economic, and cultural networks – constitute an upland-lowland continuum, connecting the smallest mountain village with local political centers in Houaphan as well as with lowland Lao and Vietnamese realms.
is a Research Associate at the University of Hamburg and the University of Cologne. His research interests include the history of the Lao-Vietnamese upland frontier and the past and present dynamics of labour migration in Southeast Asia. He is co-editor, with Vatthana Pholsena, of the volume Interactions with a Violent Past: Reading Post-Conflict: Landscapes in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (2013) and co-editor of the volume Bonded Labour: Global and Comparative Perspectives, 18th-21st Century (2016; with S. Damir-Geilsdorf, U. Lindner, G. Müller, M. Zeuske).