Transformations of a Lao landscape
Routledge – 2007 – 266 pages
Providing insights into this neglected Southeast Asian city, this interesting book interprets Vientiane’s landscape - physical as well as imagined - as a reflection of key aspects of Lao geo-political history, the nature of Lao urbanism, and its critical relation to constructions of Lao identity in the contemporary period. It is argued that the patterns of change seen through Vientiane’s past embody the key political and economic processes and transformations impacting on the people of Laos.
The Lao urban past has rarely been an object of attention by scholars. Laos, in fact, is continually portrayed as a rural backwater, marginal to the dynamic trends affecting most of the Southeast Asian mainland. In contrast to these persistent and static portrayals of Laos as a tiny landlocked backwater, with no significant urban present or past, the authors aim to document, explain and evaluate the significance of the Lao urban landscape.
Focusing on the theme of Vientiane’s ‘marginality’ in its various forms, the book interprets this apparent marginality as an historically-produced phenomenon resulting from geo-politics dating from the pre-colonial period and extending into the post-colonial period. Drawing on a wide range of research materials, Vientiane is the first work of its kind on this ignored city.
'This is a wonderful book.[..] For many reasons, this book should become a mainstay among writings of scholars of mainland south-east Asian society and history.[..] The detail and clarity this book brings to the account make it well worth consideration by anyone who is interested in theories of urbanism and urbanisation.[..] As a superb account of a small, out-of-the-way city in a small, out-of-the-way nation, one hopes that this book will not be destined to marginality and obscurity by the very processes it critiques.' - Urban Studies, July 2008
'This is a fascinating and well-documented book on a unique place….a worthwhile investment for anyone interested not only in Vientiane, but also in urbanism and history in Southeast Asia' - Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt, ASEAN, 2008
'The detail and clarity this book brings to the account make it well worth consideration by anyone who is interested in theories of urbanism and urbanisation. As a superb account of a small, out-of-the-way city in a small, out-of-the- way nation, one hopes that this book will not be destined to marginality and obscurity by the very processes it critiques.' - Eric C. Thompson Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore
'Askew, Logan and Long have undertaken one of the most important works on Lao history in many decades. This book is an attempt to look at Laos through a new perspective, the rise and fall of the city, Vientiane; its historical past, while explaining it through the discourse of urbanism and within a context of changing political landscapes' - Pavin Chachavalpongpun, ASEAN Economic Bulletin, December 2008
Foreword 1. Vientiane, Capital on the Margins: Urbanism, History and Lao Identity 2. Urbanism and the Lao World of the Mekong Valley 3. From Glory to Ruins 4. Land of the Lotus-Eaters: Vientiane under the French 5. Arena of the Cold War 6. The Pathet Lao Capital 7. Reshaping Vientiane in a Global age Notes Bibliography
Marc Askew is Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.
William Logan is Alfred Deakin Professor and holds the UNESCO Chair of Heritage and Urbanism in the School of History, Heritage and Society, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.
Colin Long is a lecturer in cultural heritage at the Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.