Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Rice in the Making of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is so diverse that some doubt it is a region. Indeed, divided up into eleven nations, the region is home to literally hundreds of peoples whose speech, dress, and demeanor all differ richly. Yet beneath today’s political and ethnic mosaic are great continuities in rice, trade,1 and urban life2 that give this corner of Asia its distinctive character. Rice is a key to the region. Jane Richardson Hanks (see the following article) captures how deeply Siamese country life once rev...

Feature Article

Teaching a Classic: Jane Richardson Hanks’ “Reflections on the Ontology of Rice”

Aglance at the globe reveals continents and oceans, or the patchwork that nations make, but were we to map the ecology of people and plants, we’d see how rice breeds local worlds. As rice draws neighbors together in a rhythm of rituals and exchanges, the countryside becomes a mosaic of small communities. Jane Hanks captures one such local world. How should we place that world? In space, it’s the flood plain of the great Chao Phraya River, Thailand’s heartland; in time, it’s the 1950s,...

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