Working Wives: Gender, Labour and Land Commercialization in Ratanakiri, Cambodia


Joshi, Saba. 2020. “Working Wives: Gender, Labour and Land Commercialization in Ratanakiri, Cambodia.” Globalizations 17 (1): 1–15.

Author: Saba Joshi


In Ratanakiri province, home to a large share of Cambodia's indigenous minorities, land commercialization involving large-scale land transfers and in-migration has led to shrinking access to land for indigenous households. Drawing on qualitative interviews and a household survey conducted in Ratanakiri, this paper explores the links between social reproduction and agrarian production in the current phase of agrarian transition through the lens of everyday gendered experiences. It argues that while wage labour is becoming an essential component of agrarian livelihoods for land-poor indigenous households, gendered hierarchies mediate access to local wage labour opportunities due to the incompatibilities between care work and paid labour. This paper contributes to the literature by exposing locally-specific processes through which gender- differentiated impacts are produced under multiple modes of dispossession. It also illuminates the links between dispossession and social reproduction and the tensions between capitalist accumulation and care activities in agrarian trajectories following land commercialization.


Keywords: Cambodia, land grabs, care labour, wage labour, indigenous peoples, gender

Topics: Agriculture, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Households, Indigenous, Land Grabbing, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2020

Gender and Natural Resource Management: Livelihoods, Mobility and Interventions


Resurrección, Bernadette P., and Rebecca Elmhirst. 2012. Gender and Natural Resource Management: Livelihoods, Mobility and Interventions. Abingdon: Routledge.

Authors: Bernadette P. Resurrección, Rebecca Elmhirst


This book is about the gender dimensions of natural resource exploitation and management, with a focus on Asia. It explores the uneasy negotiations between theory, policy and practice that are often evident within the realm of gender, environment and natural resource management, especially where gender is understood as a political, negotiated and contested element of social relationships. It offers a critical feminist perspective on gender relations and natural resource management in the context of contemporary policy concerns: decentralized governance, the elimination of poverty and the mainstreaming of gender. Through a combination of strong conceptual argument and empirical material from a variety of political economic and ecological contexts (including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam), the book examines gender-environment linkages within shifting configurations of resource access and control. The book will serve as a core resource for students of gender studies and natural resource management, and as supplementary reading for a wide range of disciplines including geography, environmental studies, sociology and development. It also provides a stimulating collection of ideas for professionals looking to incorporate gender issues within their practice in sustainable development. Published with IDRC. (Summary from Routledge)

Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, Environment, Feminisms, Gender Regions: Asia Countries: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam

Year: 2012

The Gender Agenda: NGOs and Capitalist Relations in Highland Cambodia


Frewer, Tim. 2017. “The Gender Agenda: NGOs and Capitalist Relations in Highland Cambodia.” Critical Asian Studies 49 (2): 163-86. 

Author: Tim Frewer


Cambodia’s mountainous northeastern province of Ratanakiri, which only twenty years ago was home to mainly indigenous minority groups largely focused on subsistence production, has undergone rapid ecological, social, and economic transformation. Deforestation and land alienation in the context of large-scale plantation agriculture, land speculation, and smallholder cash cropping have led to concerns that indigenous communities are being alienated from their land and not benefitting from economic changes. This has resulted in a significant number of NGO and government programs that attempt to protect and “empower” indigenous people, particularly women. This article examines a one-year research project which explored the relationship between indigenous women and land change in two indigenous villages. It discusses how indigenous women as well as Khmer and landless Cham immigrants have dealt with the commoditization of land and labor. It focuses on the differentiated way capitalist relations have pushed men, women, landless laborers, and increasingly wealthy landowners on increasingly divergent life trajectories. Compelled by donors to focus on gender and indigenous women as an object of governance, the NGO that directed this project struggled to keep up with the realities of capitalist relations on the ground.

Keywords: land use change, critical development, frontiers, NGOs, indigeneity

Topics: Gender, Women, Indigenous, NGOs, Rights, Indigenous Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2017

When Is Migration a Maladaptive Response to Climate Change?


Jacobson, Chris, Stacy Crevello, Chanthan Chea, and Ben Jarihani. 2019. “When Is Migration a Maladaptive Response to Climate Change?” Regional Environmental Change 19 (1): 101–12. 

Authors: Chris Jacobson, Stacy Crevello, Chanthan Chea, Ben Jarihani


Climate change affects rainfall variability and food security, in some cases leading to migration. Improved understanding about the interactions between climate and food security is needed before we can determine whether migration is a truly adaptive response in poorer countries. Without this understanding, it is difficult to design effective strategies that ensure climate resilient development. We present an analysis of climate, food security, migration, and its consequences from 218 households in three locations in North-western Cambodia, the most climate vulnerable nation in SE Asia. Results show that migration occurs in up to 45% of households, over half of which is climate-related. Migration causes labour shortages and welfare issues, but does not necessarily improve food security. This and climate trends lead us to argue that migration may be maladaptive over the long term, resulting in a climate-induced poverty trap. Instead, livelihood adaptations are needed that address (i) changing community demographics resulting from young male migrants, (ii) migration seasonality, associated labour shortages and gender role implications, and (iii) the burden of food insecurity. Only then can we avoid the maladaptive climate migration poverty trap.

Keywords: food security, adaptation, Cambodia, resilience, gender

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Economies, Poverty, Environment, Climate Change, Gender, Gender Roles, Livelihoods, Security, Food Security Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

Indigenous Perspectives on Gender, Power and Climate-Related Displacement


Pentlow, Sarah. 2020. "Indigenous Perspectives on Gender, Power and Climate-Related Displacement." Forced Migration Review 64: 28-31.


Author: Sarah Pentlow


The impacts of climate change are most severely felt by those who live closest to their natural habitats. Indigenous Peoples in the Greater Mekong subregion of Southeast Asia are facing threats to their livelihoods and traditional ways of life and are being forced to migrate as an adaptation strategy. Within these communities, women bear the brunt of the work to adapt as they, culturally, are responsible for the food supply and livestock care. In this context, the Climate Smart Women initiative undertook village-level field research in selected Indigenous communities in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to understand the gendered impacts of climate change at a community level and how communities are responding. Pre-existing inequalities are exacerbated by climate change, resulting in differentiated vulnerabilities.


Topics: Displacement & Migration, Climate Displacement, Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Indigenous, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam

Year: 2020

Gender and Sexual Violence, Forced Marriages, and Primitive Accumulation during the Cambodian Genocide, 1975–1979


Tyner, James A. 2018. “Gender and Sexual Violence, Forced Marriages, and Primitive Accumulation during the Cambodian Genocide, 1975–1979.” Gender, Place & Culture 25 (9): 1305–21.

Author: James A. Tyner


Between 1975 and 1979 approximately two million men, women, and children died during the Cambodian genocide. These deaths are attributed to specific administrative policies and practices initiated by the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), all of which were geared toward the basic objective of increasing agricultural production as a means of building socialism. A crucial question regarding these practices was whether the CPK implemented policies designed specifically to destroy the traditional family structure of Cambodia. Drawing on the work of Silvia Federici, this article argues that policies and practices forwarded by the CPK constitute a variation of primitive accumulation; and that transformations of the traditional family structure were conditioned by the overall social organization of production initiated by the CPK. However, a more pressing form of gendered violence is apparent – a mode that pivots on the social ordering of the CPK’s political economy.

Keywords: Cambodia, gendered violence, primitive accumulation, Silvia Federici, social reproduction

Topics: Agriculture, Economies, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, Genocide, Political Economies, Sexual Violence, Violence Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2018

Making Space for Women: Civil Society Organizations, Gender and Hydropower Development in the Mekong Region


Lebel, Phimphakan, Louis Lebel, Darunee Singphonphrai, Chatta Duangsuwan, and Yishu Zhou. 2019. “Making Space for Women: Civil Society Organizations, Gender and Hydropower Development in the Mekong Region.” International Journal of Water Resources Development 35 (2): 305-25.

Authors: Phimphakan Lebel, Louis Lebel, Darunee Singphonphrai, Chatta Duangsuwan, Yishu Zhou


Large-scale hydropower development disrupts local livelihoods and resource access. Adverse impacts are often greater for women than men, but also large for children, the elderly, poorer households and ethnic minorities. Burdens of resettlement often fall disproportionately on already disadvantaged individuals. The purpose of this study was to evaluate how international, national and local civil society organizations (CSOs) have addressed gender in hydropower development in the Mekong Region. Four CSO orientations are distinguished: communitarian, environmentalist, knowledge-based and feminist. Common activities of CSOs were to share information, to expand participation and to mobilize development. The extent to which these activities were promoted and appear to be making space for women depended on the types of CSOs and women and men targeted or otherwise involved. 

Keywords: civil society organizations, gender, hydropower, Mekong

Topics: Age, Youth, Civil Society, Displacement & Migration, Development, Economies, Poverty, Environment, Ethnicity, Feminisms, Gender, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam

Year: 2019

Gender in Development Discourses of Civil Society Organisations and Mekong Hydropower Dams


Lebel, Louis, Phimphakan Lebel, Kanokwan Manorom, and Zhou Yishu. 2019. “Gender in Development Discourses of Civil Society Organisations and Mekong Hydropower Dams.” Water Alternatives 12 (1): 192–220.

Authors: Louis Lebel, Phimphakan Lebel, Kanokwan Manorom, Zhou Yishu


'Gender in development' discourses are used to justify interventions into, or opposition to, projects and policies; they may also influence perceptions, practices, or key decisions. Four discursive threads are globally prominent: livelihoods and poverty; natural resources and the environment; rights-based; and managerial. Civil society organisations (CSOs) have been vocal in raising awareness about the adverse impacts of large-scale hydropower developments on the environment, on local livelihoods, and on vulnerable groups including women. This discourse analysis first examines how CSOs engaging in hydropower processes in the Mekong Region frame and use gender in development discourses, and then evaluates the potential of these discourses to empower both women and men. Documents authored by CSOs are examined in detail for how gender is represented, as are media reports on CSO activities, interview transcripts, and images. The findings underline how CSOs depend on discursive legitimacy for influence. Their discursive strategies depend on three factors: the organizations’ goals with respect to development, gender, and the environment; whether the situation is pre- or post-construction; and, on their relationships with the state, project developers and dam-affected communities. The implications of these strategies for empowerment are often not straightforward; inadvertent and indirect effects, positive and negative, are common. The findings of this study are of practical value to CSOs wishing to be more reflexive in their work and more responsive to how it is talked about, as it shows the ways that language and images may enhance or inadvertently work against efforts to empower women.

Keywords: civil society organisations, gender in development, discourse, representation, hydropower

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Environment, Gender, Infrastructure, Energy, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam

Year: 2019

Feminist Political Ecology and Legal Geography: A Case Study of the Tonle Sap Protected Wetlands of Cambodia


Gillespie, Josephine, and Nicola Perry. 2018. “Feminist Political Ecology and Legal Geography: A Case Study of the Tonle Sap Protected Wetlands of Cambodia.” Economy and Space 51 (5): 1089-105.

Authors: Josephine Gillespie, Nicola Perry


Legal geography (LG) unravels the co-constitutive relationship between law, space and society. Much LG scholarship has focused on urban issues situated in the Global North, but there is an emerging scholarship that explicitly extends this effort to the Global South and to rural locations. For example, Gillespie’s LG research in Southeast Asia exposes problems in governance institutions and decision-making processes that can unintentionally exacerbate existing socioeconomic disadvantage. The feminist political ecology (FPE) approach, as conceptualized by Rocheleau et al. and more recently expanded upon by Elmhirst provides a useful additional framework for considering the intersectionality of social and environmental factors which constitute identity, and the mutual dependency between identity and ecological processes. In this paper we argue that marrying an LG perspective with FPE results in a more nuanced understanding of complex legal– human–environment dynamics. Our focus on lore/law plus gendered identity as a lens for analysis blends an emergent LG literature with insights from FPE. This paper draws on research from a pilot project on the formal and informal regulatory mechanisms that enable and/or disable sustainable conservation in the protected wetlands of the Tonle Sap (lake) in central Cambodia.

Keywords: legal geography, feminist political ecology, intersectionality, wetlands, Cambodia

Topics: Environment, Feminisms, Feminist Political Ecology, Gender Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

“Our Lands are Our Lives”: Gendered Experiences of Resistance to Land Grabbing in Rural Cambodia


Park, Clara Mi Young. 2019. “‘Our Lands Are Our Lives’: Gendered Experiences of Resistance to Land Grabbing in Rural Cambodia.” Feminist Economics 25 (4): 21-44.

Author: Clara Mi Young Park


Cambodia is known as a hotspot for land grabbing in Southeast Asia. Land dispossession due to elite capture, natural resources exploitation, and agribusiness development has catalyzed international attention following outbreaks of violence, mass protests, and retaliations. Agrarian economies, as well as social and gender relations and thus power dynamics at different levels, are being transformed and reshaped, facilitated by policies that promote capital penetration in rural areas and individualization of land access. Focusing on cases of rural dispossession and political resistance in Ratanakiri and Kampong Speu provinces, and drawing on reports, government documents, focus group discussions, and interviews, this study analyzes the gendered implications of land grabbing in contemporary Cambodia and argues that gender shapes and informs women’s responses and politics, as well as the spaces in which these are played out.

Keywords: women, gender, land grabs, dispossession, mobilization, Cambodia

Topics: Agriculture, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Land Grabbing, Political Participation Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019


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