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Guest lecture by Michael Kleinod "The Lao uplands as recreational frontier: ecotourism and ecocapitalist instrumentality"

Jan 13, 2016 04:15 pm to 05:45 pm
Organizer: Junior Research Group C 15 "Agrarian Alternatives"
Karl Jaspers Centre, Room 002



This talk sums up a dissertation on ecotourism in Laos as a social force of frontier capitalism. It argues that ecotourism employs a universe of symbolic-material presets (such as the nature/society dualism in the form of conservation vs. development) seeking to shape reality according to its vision: harmony of untouched non-human nature and (basic) human livelihoods. A tool for “nature conservation”, i.e. for the production of untouched non-human nature as a (future) resource, ecotourism a) participates in the divorce of land and labor supporting the enclosure of the Lao uplands; b) seeks to convert peasants into ecosystem servants of the periphery, inculcating the moral value of untouched resources and ethnic lifestyles through income from commodified appreciation of nature and tradition; and c) re-converts Western urbanites into docile subjects of capitalist centers, providing for a ritual of self-reintegration via the experience of apparent pristineness. Both ecotourism hosts and guests thus become part of an ecorational practice. As a whole, ecotourism is thus complicit in widening as well as deepening the capital relation in times of its ecological crisis, contributing to the social production and appropriation of resources, labor and leisure while building on and (re)producing relations of dependency and inequity on various scales.