Open Collections

UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Changing land use and children's health in Mae Chaem, northern Thailand Candler, Craig Thomas 2008

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata

Download

Media
24-ubc_2008_spring_candler_craig.pdf [ 1.92MB ]
Metadata
JSON: 24-1.0066359.json
JSON-LD: 24-1.0066359-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 24-1.0066359-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 24-1.0066359-rdf.json
Turtle: 24-1.0066359-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 24-1.0066359-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 24-1.0066359-source.json
Full Text
24-1.0066359-fulltext.txt
Citation
24-1.0066359.ris

Full Text

Changing Land Use and Children’s Health in Mae Chaem, Northern Thailand by CRAIG THOMAS CANDLER B.A. (Honours), University of Alberta, 1996 M.A., University of Alberta, 1999 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Anthropology) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) April 2008  © Craig Thomas Candler, 2008  ABSTRACT Parents and farmers in the Mae Chaem valley of Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand, live at the intersection of multiple local and global streams of land use and child health technology. Based on systematically collected autobiographical oral histories from parents and farmers, as well as interviews and participant observation with land use and child health experts the study considers the relationships between child health and land use change, and particularly the rise of pesticide intensive cash cropping, since the late 1950’s. Introductory chapters on theory and methods precede a description of the ethnographic context. Case studies illustrating parent and farmer histories of child health and land use change spanning fifty years are provided. Seven streams of biotechnical expertise are identified, and mini-ethnographies are provided for each including domestic, Buddhist, Muang, spirit, market, national, and Christian. Results demonstrate the ongoing importance of parents and farmers as decision making agents at the intersection of multiple and competing cultural and biotechnical streams, even where they face efforts by large multinational corporations or other agencies to constrain and monopolize local biotechnical choice. Within the fifty year time period under consideration, the oral histories describe particular child health and land use trends. These locally perceived trends provide challenging perspectives on the relationship between ‘development’ and child health in Thailand. While children die far less often now than in the past, oral histories suggest that both children and fields now suffer from more kinds of illness, and more often, than before. Analysis also suggests differences in the experience of child health among pesticide and non-pesticide using households.  ii  TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract……………………………………………………… .....…………………ii Table of Contents……………………………………………… …………………iii List of Figures………………………………………………… …………………vii Acknowledgements…………………………………………… …………………viii 1.0 Introduction……………………………………… .................…………………1 1.1 The Biotechnical Parade ................................................................................8 1.2 Judging the Parade .......................................................................................16 1.3 Problem Statement .......................................................................................22 1.4 Summary of Objectives, Argument and Conclusions.................................25 1.5 Defining Biotechnology...............................................................................28 1.6 Agency and Constraint.................................................................................29 1.7 Children, Fields, Illness and Health in Mae Chaem....................................32 1.8 Chapter Outline .........................................................................................................34 2.0 ‘Thinking’ Anthropology ....................................................................................37 2.1 Non-Hegemonic Glocality and the Consequences of Modernity...............42 2.2 Biotechnical Streams: Linking Health and Ecology ...................................44 2.3 Streams and ANTs .......................................................................................46 2.4 On Validity: Remembering Development and its Discontents...................50 2.5 Other Studies ................................................................................................53 3.0 ‘Doing’ Anthropology..........................................................................................59 3.1 The Origins of the Thesis: A Reflexive Background..................................62 3.2 Scope: Why Mae Chaem? Why Fifty Years? Why Child Health? ............64 3.3 Timeline and Overview of Methods............................................................70 3.4 Local Connections........................................................................................73 3.5 Detailed Methods .........................................................................................75 3.5.1 Expert Interviews...............................................................................75 3.5.2 Group Interviews ...............................................................................79 3.5.3 Parent and Farmer Histories ..............................................................86 3.5.4 Analysis of Streams and Narratives ..................................................97 4.0 Ethnographic Contexts......................................................................................102 4.1 The Road to Mae Chaem ...........................................................................102 4.2 Waking Up in Mae Chaem ........................................................................107 iii  4.3 Mae Chàem, Mae Hàe Tài and the Mountains in Between ......................109 4.3.1 Demographic and Ethnographic Summary.....................................111 4.3.2 The District Centre ..........................................................................114 4.3.3 Mae Hàe Tài.....................................................................................116 4.3.4 Agriculture, Cash Crops, and Rice..................................................117 4.3.5 Early Economies: Opium, Teak ......................................................121 4.3.6 Roads and Transport........................................................................123 4.3.7 Mass Media and Communications..................................................125 4.4 Upland-Lowland Relations: Water, Conservation, and Conflict..............126 4.5 Chiang Mai and ‘the North’.......................................................................128 4.5.1 Ethnography and Demography .......................................................131 4.5.2 Communists, Opium Growers and Thailand’s Rural North...........135 4.6 The Thai state in Southeast Asia ...............................................................137 4.6.1 Thailand and the Urban-Rural Divide.............................................138 4.6.2 Thai Religion, Kinship, and the Individual.....................................139 4.6.3 Rice, Development, and Rural Modernity ......................................144 4.6.4 National Health and Illness .............................................................135 4.6.5 Mae Chaem and its place in Thailand.............................................149 4.7 The Other Communities: Science, Development and Tourism................150 4.7.1 Tourism, Research and ‘the Field’ ..................................................152 5.0 Histories of Child Health and Land Use Practice..........................................158 5.1 Case Studies: 1952-62 (2495-2505) .........................................................160 5.2 Case Studies: 1963-72 (2506-2515) .........................................................169 5.3 Case Studies: 1973-82 (2516-2525) .........................................................175 5.4 Case Studies: 1983-92 (2526-2535) .........................................................180 5.5 Case Studies: 1993-2002 (2536-2545) .....................................................184 5.6 Summary of Child Health and Land Use Case Studies ...........................190 6.0 From Parents and Farmers to Actor-Networks...........................................191 7.0 The Domestic Stream.........................................................................................197 7.1 Rice, Herbs, and Health .............................................................................199 7.2 Domestic Bioecology: the Causation of Problems ...................................202 7.3 Domestic Biotechnology: the Solving of Problems..................................206 7.4 An Actor-Network of Domestic Biotechnology .......................................210 7.5 Domestic Biopolitics: Access and Advocacy............................................212 8.0 The Buddhist Stream.........................................................................................213 8.1 Monks, Medicines and Making Merit .......................................................218 8.2 Buddhist Bioecology: the Causation of Problems ....................................219  iv  8.3 Buddhist Biotechnology: the Solving of Problems...................................220 8.4 An Actor-Network Model of Thai Buddhist Biotechnology....................231 8.4 Buddhist Biopolitics: Access and Advocacy ............................................233 9.0 The Muang Stream ............................................................................................236 9.1 Maw Muang and Maw Tamyeh .................................................................237 9.2 Muang Bioecology: the Causation of Problems........................................244 9.3 Muang Biotechnology: the Solving of Problems ......................................247 9.4 An Actor-Network Model of Muang Biotechnology................................256 9.5 Muang Biopolitics: Access and Advocacy................................................259 10.0 The Spirit Stream.............................................................................................261 10.1 Jiaw Thii: Lords of Place .........................................................................261 10.2 Spirit Bioecology: the Causation of Problems ........................................264 10.2.1 Spirits and their Mediums .............................................................266 10.3 Spirit Biotechnology: the Solving of Problems ......................................271 10.4 An Actor-Network of Spirit Biotechnology............................................274 10.5 Spirit Biopolitics: Access and Advocacy ................................................276 11.0 The Market Stream .........................................................................................278 11.1 Drug Stores, Pesticide Shops, and Selling Cures....................................279 11.2 Market Bioecology: the Causation of Problems .....................................288 11.3 Market Biotechnology: the Solving of Problems....................................289 11.4 An Actor-Network of Market Biotechnology .........................................291 11.5 Market Biopolitics: Access and Advocacy .............................................292 12.0 The National Stream........................................................................................295 12.1 Hospitals, Anamai (Clinics), and Agricultural Extension.......................297 12.2 National Bioecology: the Causation of Problems ...................................301 12.3 National Biotechnology: the Solving of Problems .................................302 12.4 An Actor-Network of National Biotechnology.......................................304 12.5 National Biopolitics: Access and Advocacy ...........................................306 13.0 The Christian Stream ......................................................................................307 13.1 Christian Bioecology: the Causation of Problems ..................................311 13.2 Christian Biotechnology: the Solving of Problems.................................311 13.3 An Actor-Network of Christian Biotechnology......................................313 13.4 Christian Biopolitics: Access and Advocacy .........................................315 14.0 The Streams of Mae Chaem ...........................................................................316 14.1 Listening to Stories: A Thematic Analysis..............................................317  v  14.2 Agency and Biotechnical Complexity: A General Model......................324 14.3 Decade Overview: 1952-62 (2495-2505)................................................329 14.4 Decade Overview: 1963-72 (2506-2515)................................................333 14.5 Decade Overview: 1973-82 (2516-2525)................................................336 14.6 Decade Overview: 1983-92 (2526-2535)................................................338 14.7 Decade Overview: 1993-2002 (2536-2545)............................................341 14.8 Stories and Numbers: A Composite History, 1952-2002 .......................343 14.9 Morbidity and Mortality: 1952-2002.......................................................351 15.0 Memory, Addictive Modernity, and Biotechnical Change ........................354 15.1 Parent-Farmers or Parent-Pharmers?.......................................................360 15.2 Summary ..................................................................................................367 15.3 Evaluation.................................................................................................371 15.4 Conclusion................................................................................................373 Notes to Chapter 1....................................................................................................382 Notes to Chapter 2....................................................................................................383 Notes to Chapter 3....................................................................................................384 Notes to Chapter 4....................................................................................................384 Notes to Chapter 5....................................................................................................384 Notes to Chapter 7....................................................................................................385 Notes to Chapter 8....................................................................................................385 Notes to Chapter 9....................................................................................................385 Notes to Chapter 10 .................................................................................................386 Notes to Chapter 11 .................................................................................................386 Notes to Chapter 12 .................................................................................................386 Notes to Chapter 14 .................................................................................................386 Notes to Chapter 15 .................................................................................................386 Bibliography ..........................................................................................................388 Appendices ..........................................................................................................400 Appendix A: Interview Protocol for Parent-Farmer Interviews .....................399 Appendix B: Glossary of Thai Terms..............................................................407 Appendix C: UBC Research Ethics Board's Certificate of Approval ............412  vi  LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1.1: Map of Thailand and the North…………………………………………4 Figure 1.2: Map of Amphur Mae Chaem…………………………………………... 9 Figure 3.1: Chronology of Fieldwork…………………………………………….. 70 Figure 3.2: Summary of Expert Interviews……………………………………….. 76 Figure 3.3: Seven Streams and Associated Experts……………………………… 83 Figure 3.4: Distribution of Parent Farmer Interviews…………………………….. 87 Figure 4.1: Mae Chaem Population 2533-45 (1990-2002)……………………… 111 Figure 4.2: Northern Crop Types and Fertilizer/Pesticide use (NSO 2003)……... 129 Figure 4.3: Chiang Mai Province Housing Characteristics (NSO 2000)………...130 Figure 4.4: Health Statistics: Chiang Mai and Kingdom (UNDP 2007)………... 131 Figure 4.5: Basic Population and Mortality Indicators for Thailand and selected UN Member States (WHO 1999)……………. 148 Figure 4.6: Basic Socio-Economic and Health Indicators for Thailand and selected UN Member States (WHO 1999)……………. 148 Figure 7.1: An Actor Network of Domestic Biotechnology…………………….. 211 Figure 8.1: An Actor-Network of Thai Buddhist Biotechnology……………….. 232 Figure 9.1: An Actor-Network of Muang Biotechnology………………………. 258 Figure 10.1: An Actor-Network of Spirit Biotechnology……………………….. 275 Figure 11.1: An Actor-Network of Market Biotechnology……………………… 293 Figure 12.1: An Actor-Network of National Biotechnology……………………. 305 Figure 13.1: An Actor-Network of Spirit Biotechnology……………………….. 314 Figure 14.1: The Biotechnical Universe of Mae Chaem………………………… 326 Figure 14.2: Child Health Practices by Stream, 1952-62 ……………………….. 331 Figure 14.3: Lowland Child Health Cures by Illness (1952-62)………………… 332 Figure 14.4: Child Health Practices by Stream, 1963-72………………………... 334 Figure 14.5 Lowland Child Health Cures by Illness (1963-72)………………… 335 Figure 14.6: Child Health Practices by Stream, 1973-82………………………... 337 Figure 14.7: Lowland Child Health Cures by Illness (1973-82)………………… 338 Figure 14.8: Child Health Practices by Stream, 1983-92………………………... 339 Figure 14.9: Lowland Child Health Cures by Illness (1983-92)………………… 340 Figure 14.10: Child Health Practices by Stream, 1993-2002……………………. 342 Figure 14.11: Lowland Child Health Cures by Illness (1993-2002)…………….. 343 Figure 14.12: What Streams Have Parents Chosen?............................................... 344 Figure 14.13: Kinds of Child Illness Reported………………………………….. 347 Figure 14.14: Reported Pesticide Use…………………………………………… 351 Figure 14.15: Frequency of Child Health Concerns per Year ...………………… 353 Figure 15.1: Health Concerns and Pesticide (1993-2002)………………………. 363 Figure 15.2: Child Health Practices and Pesticide (1993-2002)…………............. 365  vii  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The road to a PhD is a long one. It is as much a process of accruing gifts from one’s community and loved ones as it is a process of thinking and writing. My greatest thanks go to my wife and partner, Carolyn, who loved life in Mae Chaem as much as I, and who has weathered the slings and arrows of the PhD process along with me. Second thanks go to Madoma, our first daughter, who leapt from a childhood in Sierra Leone to a childhood in Canada and northern Thailand. Her enthusiasm, energy, and adaptability has been one of my greatest inspirations. Third thanks, and only because of timing, go to our second daughter, Isabela, who was born after we returned from Mae Chaem. Thanks also to our parents, brothers, sisters, family and friends who have supported us all along the way. In Thailand, my gratitude goes to Khun Laan, Khun Raywat, Khun Surasit, Pii Paa, and all the others in Mae Chaem who helped with my research, participated in interviews, invited me to help harvest fields, and generally allowed me to join in with the biotechnical parade. Thanks also to Ajaan Prasit at the University of Chiang Mai, and to Khun David and all of the staff and students at the World Agroforestry Centre (formerly the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry) for introducing me to Mae Chaem and supporting my work there. Finally, thanks to my advisors and colleagues, Dr. Bill McKellin and Dr. Janice Graham, my advisory committee members, Dr. Terry McGee and Dr. John Barker, and my examining committee, Dr. Alexia Bloch, Dr. Jim Glassman, and Dr. Katherine Bowie. I also acknowledge the vital academic and financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Ecosystem Approaches to Human Health program at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Northwest Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies, and the Department of Anthropology at UBC.  viii  Changing Land use and Children’s Health in Mae Chaem, Northern Thailand  1  Chapter 1:  Changing Land Use and Children’s Health in Mae Chaem …And what is offered? New plants to replace rice. Cash crops are promoted with the advice that they replace crops grown for food. So all those plants on the list, cabbages, potatoes, rosemary, strawberries, etc. march in. They all come in the role of saviours, palliatives against poverty…  Yes, news of new crops spreads quickly like fire through straw. Farmers want to be better off and are prepared to adopt the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, new agricultural tools and machines which seem to jump up and say, “Hello!” to Karen and every passing Farmer…  Marketing is upbeat. Such really nice companies. Skilled advertisers can create the illusion of divinity and magic: violet or red banknotes can secure wishes and buy happiness. A new divinity: the money god…  New rice varieties such as those recommended for Karen fields (hom mali, I.R. 7, muei nong, and other numerous experimental varieties) have marched past the eyes of the Karen long enough for them to come to their own opinions…  New rice varieties are not quite as resistant to pests and give new life to old diseases. So on comes the technology of better management, fertilizers and insecticides with their shiny new, unblemished qualifications.  So impressive. Who would be so presumptuous as to ask for proof and explanations? If someone objects or asks questions they might be accused of being stupid or underdeveloped or the like. All opposition is abandoned. The road to hell is paved with chemicals and fertilizers…  If development efforts eventually lead to real happiness, then roll on that day and congratulations to those who toil in the name of development.  2  But if the changes lead to counterfeit happiness which the new divinity, the money god, has dreamed up to lead us all astray, then having forgotten a more basic reality, we are lost. We, the development workers, are we part of a great merit making exercise? Or are we lost, and will the winds of change soon blow cold?  from Karen: When the Wind Blows, (Pravit Phothiart 1989: p. 375-392)  1.0  Introduction While many of the interconnected paths between ecology and health are well  trodden by medical anthropologists, others are less so. This thesis is an attempt to trace and understand the complexity of historical relationships between local agricultural and child health choices through the accounts of local parents and farmers in Mae Chaem, a rural northern Thai valley (see figure 1.1). These historical relationships include, but go far beyond, the physical consequence of particular ecological or medical practices upon the health of children. Agricultural and child health choices in Mae Chaem involve navigating and choosing among a complex set of ecological and medical experts and expertise. Pravit Photiart’s poem, presented as the pre-text, is relevant in this regard, but particularly so because the question that he poses in his final passage is much the same question that many parents and farmers, along with this thesis, ask of past fifty years of rural Thai experience. Within the domain of local Thai knowledge, the links between health and land use, medicine and ecology, occur at many levels. Within the narratives of local parents and farmers, and land use and child health experts from the valley, the Thai term yaa (ยา) is often used to describe practices and technologies used to affect or remedy the health of both fields and people. The term refers to both the practices and active compounds or  3  Figure 1.1: Map of Thailand and the North  Mae Chàem  4  rituals (medicines) used to treat illness in the body, as in the terms yaa boran (old or traditional medicine) or yaa praachabaan (pharmaceutical medicine). It is also used to describe more dangerously bio-active compounds such as yaa septic (illegal drugs) and the various compounds and practices used to treat agricultural problems as in the terms yaa kaa maleng (pesticide, or yaa for killing insects) and yaa kaa yaa (herbicide, oryaa for killing small plants and herbs). Beyond material substances, yaa is also a term used, thought with less frequency, to describe efficacious ritual practices, such as the making of offerings in rice fields to resolve human illnesses or crop problems1. As such, the Thai term yaa is similar to, but much broader than the English term ‘medicine’, or ‘drug’, as these do not connote the range of substances and practices designed to affect the health and productivity of human and non-human lives. In this thesis, I use the term biotechnology as a semantic equivalent of the Thai term yaa, and use the term biotechnical to refer to those practices or forms of knowledge designed to affect the health or productivity of human and non-human lives. Biotechnology, as I use the term here, refers to substances or practices that are designed to effect life. Like yaa, biotechnologies may include practices that affect the life and health of children (medical biotechnology), or to the life and health of fields (agricultural biotechnology). In using the term, I mean to describe a general category of knowledge and practice that encompasses the usual ‘hi-tech’ connotations, but also includes more locally derived tools and practices (technologies, broadly defined) that are designed to be efficacious in altering or remedying the health of children or fields. While some forms of yaa, or biotechnology, are material and rely on the efficacy of modern or traditional Thai chemistry accessed through the medium of pills or ointments, other forms of yaa may  5  rely on the efficacy of particular ritual practices such as the making of offerings, or the efficacy of the Buddha’s power accessed through the chanting of scriptural text by monks or other ritual specialists. Beyond the semantic links between medical and ecological domains provided by local terminology, in Mae Chaem, both medical and ecological experts affiliate themselves with particular traditions of knowledge that I refer to as streams (Barth 1993). The various streams of medicine and ecology available to parents and farmers in Mae Chaem and represented by various valley ‘experts’ articulate biotechnical practices for affecting the health of children and lands at the same time as they offer diverse ontologies of life, illness and causality. The biotechnical streams of Mae Chaem are detailed in chapters six through thirteen and frequently span the ecological and the medical and draw on influences ranging from the local to the global. While some streams are indigenous and have long histories in the valley, others are relatively recent arrivals. These streams involve networks of practice and affiliation that have changed over time, and particularly since the 1950’s with the onset of ‘development’ in Northern Thailand. Each links parents and farmers, through biotechnical practices and choices, to larger and more global notions of tradition, development and change. It is also important to note that the systems of biotechnology available to parents and farmers in the valley over the past five decades have advocated particular practices but also particular ways of conceptualizing how life works and what goes wrong when illnesses (in crops or children) occur. Changes in local practices and strategies for affecting the life and health of children and of rice fields put new ontologies into practice  6  and imply new networks for understanding and responding to the problems of young children and fields. For reasons explored in chapter three, archival documents regarding northern Thai shifts in health and land use practice are difficult to access and provide only a very partial history of change in the north. In there absence, I trace the history of change through documentation and analysis of first person narratives of land use and child health histories recalled by experts as well as by parents and farmers in the valley. Tracing the health and land use choices remembered by parents and farmers provides a perspective for understanding these larger currents of cultural and developmental change in the valley. As outlined in chapter three, all of my interviews were with either biotechnical experts and practitioners recognized by local parents and farmers, or with men and women who were both parents and farmers themselves. These interviews demonstrate the available cultural streams and provide a historical perspective on the prevalence of particular agricultural and child health choices in Mae Chaem. These local perspectives draw links between parenting and farming and among the various biotechnical streams. They also highlight the role of local agents (especially parents and farmers) in manoeuvring between globally and locally derived medical and ecological recourse. My work is an attempt to understand the diversity of approaches to health, land and technological development in Mae Chaem, and to understand the role of local parents and farmers in moving between them. Through analysis of the parent-farmer2 histories, and the linkages that they reflect, this ethnographic study provides a locally based perspective on relations between, and consequences of, the rise of national and market based child health care and the  7  concurrent rise of chemically intensive cash crop agriculture in rural northern Thailand since the late 1950’s. It also illustrates the persistent and ongoing importance of locally based approaches to child health and land use, particularly as influenced by domestic and kin relationships and the significant decisions that are made away from the official structures of national health care and the commercial market. These results demonstrate the ongoing importance of parents and farmers as decision making agents at the intersection of multiple and competing cultural and biotechnical streams, even where they face efforts by large multinational corporations or other agencies to constrain and monopolize local biotechnical choice.  1.1  The Biotechnical Parade  Upon arrival, my wife Carolyn, our seven year old daughter Nancy and I rented a small teak house in Baan Sanong, part of the district centre of Mae Chaem (see figure 1.2). Our house sat in the middle of a small family compound and down a side street a few minutes walk from the centre of town and within hearing distance of the Chang Khung primary school that my daughter attended. Like the other houses in the compound, and elsewhere in the district centre, ours was built mostly of teak logs and planks with a ground level living area, kitchen, and washroom enclosed with brick and a wooden upper floor sparsely furnished with sleeping mats and mosquito nets. Behind our house was a small family garden, and then the rice fields of the village.  8  Figure 1.2: Map of Amphur Mae Chaem  Amphur Mae Chaem  Doi Inthanon Road (to Chom Thong and Chiang Mai)  Mae Chaem District Centre Scale 1:50,000 (approximate) Contour Interval 20 meters Based on sheets 4645I and 4646II, RSTD  North  9  The family whose compound we resided in was composed almost entirely of women. Pii Paa3, a woman in her early forties who soon became a close friend, lived in the house closest to the road with Yai Not, her elderly mother. Pii Paa, her hair cropped short, and face darkened from work in the fields, owned only a few rai4 of poor quality land that was far from the village. She spent most of her days working for friends and neighbours as a field labourer, while Yai Not supplemented the family’s income by making cigars from local tobacco and pressed banana leaves for sale at market. Pii Fai and and Yai Not also took taking care of Fai, an energetic nine year old niece whose own mother and father were living and working in the provincial capital of Chiang Mai and who lived with her grandmother and aunt so that she could go to school at the nearby primary school. Yai Dang, another elderly woman and friend of Yai Not, lived in her own house on the other side of us, nearest the fields where our neighbours grew rice in the wet season followed by cash crops like tobacco, corn, and shallots. Between our houses and the fields ran a muddy irrigation canal, and a row of small household garden plots where our family, and the other’s on our block, grew vegetables for family consumption. Our house had been built for Pii Paa’s brother but when we arrived it was no longer in use as he had remarried and moved to his new wife’s village further up the valley. As late as the 1950’s, Baan Sanong was a village extending north along the east side of the Mae Chaem river, but since the 1960’s, had been enveloped by the growth of the district centre. Within the first month of arriving we were embraced as a novel addition to village life. Our compound was in a lively part of town, surrounded on three sides by other family compounds, including the house of the village head (kamnaan). The main road of the district centre ran past a block from our house and was lined with noodle  10  shops, several small stores selling food, cold beer, and other small goods, a small karaoke bar, and an internet games and email shop run by some local teens. Further down, away from the centre of town, was a dealership selling shiny new pick-up trucks, refrigerators, and other more costly items. From the dealership, one can see the treed compound and golden spires of a large Buddhist monastery and temple school where Carolyn was later recruited to teach English to the village monks. The November full moon festival of Loy Kratong5 took place shortly after our arrival in the valley. Almost every occasion in Mae Chaem warrants a parade or procession to accompany it. Funerals, national holidays, annual festivals, the start of school and major rituals to call the rains and present offerings to Buddhist monks all involve a procession of participants through the fields or streets, usually accompanied by loud drums and small cymbals or blaring speakers. At major events like Loy Kratong the various baan compete for the honour of the most impressive float. My family and I, the strange bunch of farang who had moved into Baan Sanong were approached by several of our neighbours and asked to join in the neighborhood Loy Kratong procession. Through the previous week we had watched a massive wood and paper water buffalo, complete with swivelling head and glowing red Christmas light eyes, take shape at the hands of several of the local men in an open area near the rice fields. The construction of the huge water buffalo float involved many of our neighbours eating, laughing, and drinking a great deal of whiskey each afternoon. The daily work party had served as a key venue for the early introduction, explanation and discussion of my work and our presence in the village and I was thrilled to be asked to be part of Baan Sanong efforts to win first prize  11  in the Loy Kratong parade. In my still halting Thai I happily agreed to take part in the event. On the appointed night, the full moon of the eleventh lunar month, we were dressed, as best our neighbours could manage, in traditional northern Thai garb and my wife and I were plied with a pre-parade sampling of the best neighbourhood rice whiskies. As darkness fell, we joined the rest of our baan at the edge of town behind our giant water buffalo, now pulled on a wheeled trailor by a large truck. It was festively clothed in sparkling lights and a very loud and crackling set of speakers blasting Thai folk music. Several of the most beautiful young women from the village waved delicately from the back of the float. The younger children followed the buffalo in the back of several more pick-up trucks, and the children were followed in turn by the women of the village walking behind the trucks, and then all of the men. Our daughter, smiling and giggling, was led away from us, and I was ushered away from my wife to join the rest of the men. The structure of the parade required us to separate and take on roles that would not otherwise be ours. Now separated, we were each taken under the wings of new found friends and neighbours, and subsumed for demonstration as part of a new social animal, that of Baan Sanong. The whole Baan Sanong procession waited on the dark road as other baan took their turns marching through the centre of town. The night was full of the flash and bang of small fireworks. In the night sky, occasional candles, attached to plastic bags to form tiny hot air balloons, floated up into the starry heavens as tiny offerings of light. Other small plastic bags, these filled with clear rice whisky were passed amongst the crowd, with me sharing a drink  12  through a small straw, then passing it on along with various sweets and fried delicacies offered by my laughing and joking neighbours. I did my best to be part of the crowd, struggling to understand and reply to questions that were launched at me in rapid fire northern Thai dialect. I was quickly bewildered, leaving my neighbours smiling and encouraging me with overly-generous comments on how well I spoke Thai. When the time for movement finally came, I followed the order of our procession: buffalo, children, women, men. I walked along side the other men of the village, smiling and waving. We entered the centre of town as spectators lined the sidewalks, many of them waving and smiling back at the sight of farang in the midst of the Baan Sanong parade. The crowd moved to the crackling music of our giant electric water buffalo, the volume and energy increasing as we passed the table of judges who would decide on the winner of the competition. Later, after our procession reached the river, we lit the candles and incense on our floating kratong offerings and pushed them out into the river to join a sea of other tiny offerings of light: a sparkling homage to an ancient Thai queen6 and the waters that a rice based society depend upon. My family and I found each other again and we became part of the crowd of spectators on the sidewalks of Mae Chaem’s main street watching other baan follow floats of their own design and dance to their own music. Some of the baan demonstrated their unique ethnic identity as upland minorities through wearing the distinct Karen or Hmong costumes. When we were tired of watching, we turned and explored the brightly lit market stalls that had sprung up to sell everything from children’s toys to beauty products and patent medicines, then viewed the entries in the kratong competition where villagers had provided their most beautiful constructions of candles, incense, banana  13  leaves, and flowers for others to appreciate and judge. The noise and light of the festival continued late into the night. My family and I, the three strange farang of Baan Sanong, retreated to our little teak house long before it ended. We could hear the festivities continue as we went to sleep underneath our mosquito nets. The next morning we found out that Baan Sanong’s procession had been awarded the winning place by the parade judges. On the banks of the Mae Chaem, like some kind of morning-after hangover, we also found a litter of spent offerings: a tangled mess of burnt candles, wilted flowers, and banana leaves that was complicated by masses of white Styrofoam that had been chosen by many local villagers as a modern substitute for sections of banana tree trunk that more traditionally provide floatation for kratong offerings. The popularity of the modern material had ecological consequences that lay strewn on the river bank like white plastic bits of bone, chewed up and spat out by the night before, a foreshadowing of the global and local complexities that I would find manifest in this small town. The idea of a parade of modern agricultural and biotechnical options, playing out through the recent history of rural northern Thailand, and the ambiguous nature of resulting consequences, forms the core metaphor of Pravit Phontiart’s poetic narrative, presented as the pre-text to this chapter. Pravit’s poem conjures up a parade of modernity and ‘development’ in northern Thailand that has moved through the lives and landscapes of northern Thai parents and farmers for almost fifty years. His parade depicts the kinds of interconnected knowledges and practices of culture, technology, health and land that are common in the Mae Chaem valley. His ambiguous characters are familiar tropes of rural northern Thailand: the smiling pesticide salesmen, the enthusiastic development agent, the slick but dangerous technologies of scientific management, cash crops,  14  fertilizers and insecticides, all with their ‘shiny new, unblemished qualifications’, and rural farmers, Karen and Thai, who, over time, watch the carnival of biotechnical strategies parade past, sometimes joining in, sometimes cheering, sometimes staying at the sidelines. The narratives of post-development paraded by Thai academics and activists like Pravit Phontiart themselves compete with narratives of development, particularly developmentalist narratives of an un-romantic and backwards rural Thai past subject to improvement by modern technology and globally oriented development and commerce. What seems to be missing from Pravit’s account of the parade, and the accounts of change offered by the developmentalists, is what I have tried to introduce through this thesis. While many rural parents and farmers are judging, and often choosing, the offerings of modern state and market oriented technologies of land use and child health, they are also often choosing the alternate biotechnical offerings of other cultural streams: Buddhist monks, village elders, local spirits, and traditional doctors. In this interplay of parade and agency, advertisement and selection, the ability and propensity of local parents and farmers to make alternate choices, as well as the choices that they often make, are at least as significant as the efforts of various biotechnical streams to attract and sometime constrain the attentions and allegiance of local actors. Much as the various baan of Mae Chaem competed in the loy kratong parade, using a huge water buffalo and exotic farang to impress the crowd and judges, Pravit’s narrative points towards the parade of commercial development and biotechnology displayed before rural farmers by government development agents and pesticide salesmen. But in the loy kratong parade, there was not just one baan displaying its  15  innovation and beauty, there were many. Put simply, it was a competition to win the approval of those who witnessed it. Likewise, while Pravit focuses on one important entry in the parade of biotechnology, it is not the only entry that vies for the attention and approval of the assembled bystanders. In both cases, local parents and farmers (as well as their strange and temporary farang neighbours) are involved as both participants and bystanders in the parade of biotechnology. Within the contexts of multiple and competing notions of life, illness, and cure, they make choices regarding which to take part in, which to cheer for, and which to let pass by. Also like the loy kratong parade, and the morningafter mess on the riversides, the parades of biotechnology, and the biotechnical choices of local actors, have environmental consequences for Mae Chaem and its inhabitants.  1.2  Judging the Parade Pravit’s poem, originally presented in an academic conference setting, ends with a  complex and unanswered ethical question which he posed to an audience of fellow Thai development workers: We, the development workers, are we part of a great merit making exercise? Or are we lost, and will the winds of change soon blow cold? Pravit asks his questions from within a Thai Buddhist moral cosmology where ‘making merit’ (tam bun) is a central concept synonymous with doing good and benefiting others rather than oneself. Within this moral cosmology, the intention of an action, the action itself, and the consequence of the action, are all considered in determining if merit has been made. In essence, Pravit asks if the developmental change that has been advocated and practiced in Thailand’s north over the past fifty years, however well intentioned, has  16  done ‘good’. Has it been a benefit to those receiving it, and conversely, a source of merit for those advocating it? His questioning of development parallels the questions of many other critical late 20th century Thai writers and academics ( Sulak 1990, Bowie/ Samruam Singh 1991, Sanitsuda 1995, Arce and Long 2000, Rigg 2001, Delcore 2004 and others) and is part of a deep, subaltern questioning of the benefits of development that extends far beyond Southeast Asia (Escobar 1995). Since the 1997 economic crisis, and especially since the ouster of the Thaksin government in 2006, this questioning of Thailand’s development history (and future) has become central to Thai national policy through the notion of a ‘sufficiency economy’ advanced by the Thai monarchy and the post-Thaksin government, and questioned by many others. The ideas behind the ‘sufficiency economy’ are laid out in the government sponsored Thailand Human Development Report 2007 (UNDP 2007). The report positions the ‘sufficiency economy’ as a national level correction on a path towards development that has led to economic success, but also deep inequality, and high social and environmental costs. The report provides a brief historiy of Thai development since the 1950’s: Half a century ago, Thailand was still predominantly rural and undeveloped… Development began in the Cold War era with help and encouragement from the United States. In the first stage, which began in the late 1950s and lasted until the 1980s, growth was powered by exports of agricultural products. Investments in infrastructure of ports and roads connected formerly remote area of the country to the world market. Development planners and entrepreneurs combined to bring in new crops, new techniques and new technologies. The second stage, which began in the 1970’s inserted Thailand into global chains of industrial production… Foreign investment from the United States swelled in the 1970s, and then was surpassed by much larger flows from East Asia from the mid 1980s onwards…The development plans that helped spark this process prioritized growth, and in their own terms they were spectacularly successful…(p. 21).  17  As noted by Glassman (2004), and others, the involvement of the United States in Thai development from the 1950’s through the 1970’s through NGOs and agencies such as USAID was an integral component of American foreign economic and military policy in the region. US-Thai development efforts coincided wth a fluorescence of American ethnographic attention on the Thai village (Sharp and Hanks 1972) and the challenges of changing agricultural practices and increasing rice yields in support of rural development (Moerman 1968, Hanks 1972). However, while the dominant political, ecomic and military elites of Thailand were firmly in favour of US, and later Japanese, supported ‘development’ strategies, questions were being asked of the development paradigm, particularly in rural areas Rising concern over the destructive, divisive, unsustainable and disempowering by-products of growth fuelled debate from the late 1960s onwards. In parts of the country7, this discontent prompted support for a communist insurgency for almost 20 years. Other reactions sought solutions that were more peaceful and more local... Growing numbers of NGOs helped to articulate and transmit these new ideas across new national networks... (UNDP 2007:25) In the 1970’s the conflict between capitalist and socialist visions of development led to a polarizing of both the right and left in rural areas (Bowie 1996) as well as more urban areas. Scholarship on Thai development in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s also saw increasing attention on the relationships between the environment and developmental change in northern Thailand (Geddes 1976, Kundstadter 1978). In the 1980’s and 90’s environmental concerns, largely related to deforestation, became a critical component of local and national development debates (Hirsch 1997). The Thai economic crisis of 1997 saw the collapse of many of the economic gains realized through the 1980s and 90s and highlighted the environmental and social costs already paid.  18  While this history of Thai development has occurred nationally, it is felt keenly in places like rural Mae Chaem. Pravit’s writing, and the writings of post-development, parallel the kinds of questions that are often asked (and sometimes answered) by the parents and farmers of Mae Chaem in making decisions regarding the diversity of child health and land use practices available to them. Is a particular change good? Does a particular path or stream lead to a better life, or better health? After attempting an understanding of how local parents and farmers have moved between the various biotechnical streams available in Mae Chaem, I seek to inform a similar question, basing my response on historical understandings and judgements articulated by parents and farmers in Mae Chaem, as well as the historical picture provided through analysis of the biotechnical choices recalled through seventy-eight individual parent and farmer interviews8 that together reflect fifty years of development and change. My fieldnotes from March 31, 2004 record an encounter that illustrates the critical rememberance of biotechnical change by parent-farmers in Mae Chaem. The encounter also provides an illustration of the difference it makes to be able to see developmental change from a critical, historical, and locally based perspective. My research assistants and I had made the hot and dusty motorcycle trip to an upland Pgha’knyaw (Karen)9 village on the slopes of Doi Inthanon at the headwaters of a major stream draining into the Mae Chaem river. On that particular day, many of the men and some of the women of the village were away at the district centre at a set of angry protests being held at the government buildings. The protests were attended by farmers from across the valley who were angry over the low price of shallots or red onions (hom daeng), a common Thai staple and cash crop that earned high prices the year before (2003) but whose price had  19  crashed as a result of a market glut. Many local farmers thought the glut to be the fault of government extension agents who encouraged the farming of shallots too widely10. Upon arrival in the little village we made our way to the home of a respected elderly woman, Mae Ui Muu Weh, we had come to interview. Like most Karen and Thai homes, hers was raised high on stilts. One of her young granddaughters sat in the shade beneath the house weaving on a small loom a kind of white dress traditionally worn by Pgha’knyaw girls before they are married. Muu Weh joined us under the house and offered us water while we spoke. While Pgha’knyaw was her birth language, her command of the northern Thai dialect (kham muang) was strong and, responding to our questions, she compared life now to what she experienced as a mother and farmer fifty years earlier. Muu Weh began making a long list of comparisons between the 1950’s when she had raised her first children, and now: Back then many of our children died. We had no pharmaceutical medicines, only offerings to spirits and mat muu11 (tying of wrists). With two pair12 of chickens and some whiskey we would suu pii naam (make offerings to spirits of water) at the place where the water comes out of the mountain. This is still done to strengthen the health of children and for adults. bun dii, yaa dii (If the person has merit, the medicine works). Now the children don’t die. They all live and they can go to school, but they are not strong. They get sick easily because they are lazy and the food is not clean. It has too many chemicals in it. We have to soak and wash everything if it comes from the market. In the past we had only a little meat, but the food was clean. Now we have to worry about the food we eat because of chemicals. At the end of the wet season, when everyone sprays the fields, the wind carries the chemicals and the stink is everywhere. In the past, after planting the rice in the fields we would just weed by hand. It was hard work, but there were not so many weeds then. If birds or rats came, we would just let them eat. It was not a problem. We never had insects that ate our rice. Now we grow rice, but we need money too so we grow red onions or cabbages to sell. There are more insects now than before and we need to use yaa kaa maleng (pesticides) and pui chemi (chemical  20  fertilizers) to grow our crops. And now there are far more weeds because of chemical fertilizers so we have to use yaa kaa yaa (herbicides) as well. In the past we would have problems with rats and birds, or our neighbour’s pigs, eating the rice, but there were big trees so we knew that the soil would be good. Now there are no big trees left. In the past, some years we didn’t have enough to eat. But now outsiders have bought our best naa (irrigated wet rice paddy) and our rice isn’t enough to eat so we need to have more money to buy rice, so we need to grow more cash crops to sell. Me, I have nothing to sell. We used to have cows, but these have also been sold, a long time ago. Opium was grown up on the mountainside by khon Muang (local Thai) and they paid us for weeding and harvesting the poppies. Sometimes our wages would be in opium. Some would smoke it, some would trade it. But now that is all gone. If there were problems in the rice fields we would liang pii (give to the spirits) by ourselves. Sometimes it would work, sometimes not. Even now we do this. Bun dii, yaa dii Some people make offerings when they plant red onions or cabbage, but some only for rice. In the past there was plenty of food in the forest, fish in the streams, now there isn’t. If you go into the forest the police will arrest you [Muu Weh’s village is near the boundary of Doi Inthanon National Park]. Not in the past… Now the forest department says they own everything. CARE [an international development NGO] came to help us and planted fruit trees to show this is not the park. Now we worry about not having enough to eat. Now we worry about floods (naam tuam) like last year. Now we have lost both our land and our irrigation systems because of the water [the floods, often blamed on deforestation]. Now the women have to stay and grow onions when the men go get jobs in town… As Muu Weh sat comparing the present to the past, five other villagers, including one man, likely in his 30’s, and several young women, two in shirts with the insignia of the local high school, came to see why a farang had come to visit such a small village. When Muu Weh was finished making her comparisons, I asked if she thought one was better than the other. She responded strongly that the past was better (dii kwa) than today. The man nodded his head and agreed with her saying that the past was better because the culture and respect of the people was stronger, and because the forest was still in good condition. We then asked Muu Weh’s granddaughter, still weaving beside her  21  grandmother, now with a young child nearby, what she thought was better and her response, equally as strong, though with an added giggle, was, “daew nii” : the present. I asked why she thought the present was better, the young woman shrugged her shoulders and responded, “bo ruu samaigon kha”, because I don’t know the past. This encounter crystallizes several of the key issues at stake in establishing a critical and locally informed historical perspective on the ‘development’ of lives and lands in rural Mae Chaem. Complex histories of biotechnical resort and ambiguous past experiences implicate local traditions, the Thai state, NGOs, the allure of the cash economy and modern technological products within local lives. The crux of this encounter seems to be the contrast between the complex of experience based rationale provided by the elderly woman for her judgement of the valley’s biotechnical past, and its contrast with the younger woman’s very different judgement based on an absence of experiential knowledge regarding the past. After considering the diverse array of biotechnical options available in the valley, and the ambiguities of remembered biotechnical experience, the retrospective judgements of valley parents and farmers regarding the success of biotechnical changes in ‘improving life’ provide a fascinating, and challenging lens through which to understand the past, present, and prospective future biotechnical choices of parents and farmers in Mae Chaem.  1.3  Problem Statement My work in Mae Chaem begins with a set of basic ethnographic questions. What  are the various forms of medical and agricultural knowledge and practice current in Mae Chaem? How have the parents and farmers moved between them over time? Are they  22  linked? If so, then how, by whom, and to what ends? Mae Chaem provides a remarkably diverse case study for understanding the links between biotechnical streams. Through the process of fieldwork in Mae Chaem has became obvious that parents and farmers in Mae Chaem exist at the intersection of a variety of alternately competing and complementary biotechnical experts, treatments, and ideologies as well as an equally wide range of illnesses, land use challenges, and potential sources of personal and social suffering. The diversity of these biotechnical systems, and their attendant challenges13, are rooted in a complexity of local histories, cultures, and ecologies, and within a global exchange of commodities and ideas that, in Southeast Asia, is thousands of years old. Streams of biotechnical knowledge and practice are offered by Buddhist monks, family members, government and NGO extension workers, spirit mediums, pesticide and fertilizer advertisements, hospital physicians, farmer’s cooperatives, and multinational agribusiness representatives, to name only a few. The popularity of the child health and land use meanings and practices offered by these medical and ecological streams ebb and flow, overlap and compete for attention within the social, ecological, political-economic, and aesthetic realities of families and individuals. Through fieldwork in the Mae Chaem valley, and through the writing of this thesis, I have struggled to understand and articulate the diversity of biotechnical streams in the valley, how child health and land use are connected differently within them, and how parents and farmers have experienced, responded to and manoeuvred between old and new approaches to medicine and ecology within complex contexts of historical change. In more theoretical terms, my work is an attempt to understand how local biotechnical worlds14, as represented through local histories of everyday practice, are  23  built and adjusted within the contested extension of locally and globally derived biotechnical streams and within changing ecologies of human and agricultural health. I contend that local biotechnical choices (regarding both land use and child health) illustrate the prominent role of local agency in regulating the flow of modernity and tradition within the Mae Chaem valley and in defining local experiences of global biotechnical change. Furthermore, local memories of child health and land use weave together ecology and medicine within complex local histories of biotechnical change. In the final chapters I suggest that oral history can be used to trace and illustrate complex linkages between changing land use practices and changing child health experiences. Tracing land use and child health choices through the memories and narratives of parents and farmers enables the tracing of patterns over long periods of time. This process of outlining patterns over time leads, in the end, to my reconsideration of Pravit’s question and the diversity of responses that Mae Chaem parents and farmers provide to the question of whether or not land use and child health changes in the Mae Chaem valley over the past fifty years, accomplished in the name of ‘development’, have been for the better. The answers provided by Mae Chaem parents and farmers, and by my own analysis, are ambiguous. Nonetheless, they constitute a grounded and community-based understanding of developmental change in Northern Thailand that reflects the diversity of Mae Chaem’s history and highlights the importance of the push and pull between local choices and the forms of biotechnical advocacy current within local contexts.  24  1.4  Summary of Objectives, Argument and Conclusions As elaborated in chapter three, and summarized in the concluding chapter, my  thesis is based around three primary objectives:  1)  Understanding the ‘Biotechnical Streams’ that have been available in the Mae Chaem valley over the past fifty years.  2)  Documenting what parents and farmers say about changes in their own approach to child health and agricultural land use over time.  3)  Analysing the relationships between changing child health and land use practices over the past fifty years.  In the process of addressing these objectives, I defend and rely upon several premises:  1) That there are multiple biotechnical options in Mae Chaem, and that while the parade of biotechnologies has different entries in it today, there were multiple biotechnical options in the past as well. In other words, parents and farmers in Mae Chaem have always been engaged in making choices between biotechnical traditions. This condition is not a recent phenomenon.  2) The parade of agricultural technology in Mae Chaem is entwined with the parade of child health technology. These two ‘parades’ are connected to greater or  25  lesser degrees in all of the biotechnical streams through language, causality, common practitioners, and shared ontologies of practice and effect. In general, each stream or tradition applies its unique technologies, ontologies, and expertise to both child health and agricultural land use. As such, both child health and land use technologies can usefully be discussed as components of larger biotechnical streams.  3) Because of the diversity of biotechnical streams available in Mae Chaem, the continued existence of each stream is dependent on the biotechnical choices made by local parents and farmers. Through advertising and other devices, biotechnical streams and their experts encourage parents and farmers to form particular biotechnical allegiances and avoid others.  4) A defining component of local biotechnical choice is retrospective judgement regarding the efficacy and consequence of past biotechnical choices and changes. These retrospective judgements are influenced by many factors, but are informed by both past experience and embodied values regarding what constitutes good health in children and fields.  Based on these premises, and on data collected through nearly two years of fieldwork and interviews with biotechnical experts and parent-farmers throughout the central Mae Chaem valley, I come to several conclusions:  26  1) that changes experienced, and choices made in the domain of child health are closely connected to changes experienced and choices made within the domain of land use;  2) that local parents and farmers have been, and continue to be, central and critical agents in manoeuvring between the various biotechnical streams available to them;  3) that, particularly in the domain of agricultural land use, parents and farmers perceive local agency to be increasingly constrained by the results of chemically intensive cash cropping. Both children and fields are seen as enmeshed in a cycle of ‘addiction’ that is seen locally as a key consequence of modernity that is being reinforced by the practices of multinational corporations advocating particular forms of agriculture and agricultural biotechnology in the valley, and;  4) retrospective judgements of past biotechnical experience in the valley are complex and ambiguous, particularly amongst older generations of parents and farmers. Such retrospective judgements give consideration to material environments of disease, ecology, and economy, but also to mental environments of media, advertisement, and social meaning. Such judgments play a critical role in affecting biotechnical choices and are likely to continue to provide a framework for biotechnical diversity and heterogeneity in Mae Chaem.  27  1.5  Defining Biotechnology Throughout my work I have insisted on combining notions of child health and  land use practices within the notion of biotechnology. As alluded to earlier in this chapter, in using the term biotechnology I mean that child health and land use both refer fundamentally to ways of affecting life, whether the life of human bodies, or the life of rice fields and local ecologies. In this sense, I am not attempting a double-barrelled argument fought on the twin fronts of medicine and ecology. It would be hard to find two more time worn or treacherous battlefields within the domain of anthropology. Instead, I am looking for an easier and less well travelled line of argument, and one that is more in keeping with the northern Thai roots of the ethnographic material. I attempt to shift the debate, and perhaps decentre it, through walking the connections between medical and ecological practice and knowledge. Dividing health practice and land use into separate domains often seems to actually obscure our ability to see essential relationships between the two. Such artificial separation involves the kind of classificatory and scientific ‘purification’ argued against in Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern (1993). Rather than accepting the separation of these biotechnologies into purified domains of medicine and environmental science, I have tried to explicitly recognize the relationships that lurk behind their disciplinary divisions, the sinews of interest and ontology that bind medicine and ecology, and the dynamics that link the health of human bodies and the health of human environments. I do this, in part, by entangling the relationships between medicine and ecology with the hybridized notion of biotechnology as a primary subject of investigation. To be clear, I do not mean biotechnology in the usual sense of a restricted and mystified techno-  28  scientific domain, but as a general category that means, literally, ways of affecting life. I take it to be a category that can be applied broadly to a variety of cultural streams, and to the life-affecting practices of Buddhist merit making, new concrete latrines, and multinational pesticide campaigns, equally. This recognition of relationships between human health and human ecologies is also at the core of an ecosystem approach to human health (Lebel 2003), an applied perspective that has greatly influenced my own work15. I realize that in trying to address both land use and child health, medicine and ecology, I am dealing with two very large domains of anthropology and human experience. This is an ambitious task, but not insurmountable. The interconnected paths between ecology and health are well trodden by medical anthropologists, and I travel the connections between the two in order to approach a single hypothesis: that local biotechnical choices (regarding both land use and child health) are both diverse and connected, and that they illustrate the push and pull between local agency and the enrollment efforts of larger biotechnical actor-networks16. It is this push and pull that regulates the flow of modernity and tradition and determines the ontological politics and social dynamics of rural ‘development’ in northern Thailand.  1.6  Agency and Constraint The framework that I use to understand child health and land use change in  northern Thailand emphasizes both a diversity of active cultural ‘streams’ (derived from both local and global sources), and the empowered agency of local farmers and parents who make choices within that diversity. Over the past several hundred years, and particularly over the past fifty, northern Thai lives have been lived at the margins of  29  sweeping global changes. But life at these margins has hardly involved provincial isolation. Northern Thai valleys and villages are not closed entities. Quite the opposite, the highlands of northern Thailand have seen the communication of a remarkable diversity of biotechnical realities, co-existing and overlapping, and these have resulted in a fecundity of systems, ideas and images to fertilize local biotechnical imaginations. Hybrid ontologies and cyborg17 technologies have cropped up wherever local communities and ecologies have touched the tides of multinational corporate interest and international development. New and culturally syncretic ways of seeing and acting in the world blend Buddhist laws with transgenic crop engineering, village spirits with pharmaceutical companies, pesticide advertisements with infectious diseases and methamphetamine addictions. Mae Chaem is not some simple rural locale, but is a complex ‘glocality’ where parents and farmers live and make decisions within a cultural space that offers numerous systems of land use and child health, each with its own resident experts and representatives, and each offering its own strategies and technologies for affecting life. Global and local forms of knowledge and connection combine and interpenetrate within the cultural space of Mae Chaem. This diversity of globally and locally derived systems gives rise to a complex biotechnical and ideological ‘marketplace’ where the enrolment, advertising, and extension efforts of various biotechnical systems come face to face with the empowered local agency of parents and farmers trying to decide how best to ensure the health of their children and the success of their fields within the complexity of modern life in northern Thailand.  30  The various systems of biotechnology available and advocated in the valley over the past five decades include particular bio-technologies but also particular bioontologies. Changes within this larger field seem to imply shifts, not only in local strategies for affecting life, but also in local understandings of what life is. In the absence of documented historical sources, I turned to interviews with local biotechnical experts, and systematic recording of accounts of child health and land use practice narrated in interviews with parents and farmers to trace shifts in land use and child health practice. The field of broader biotechnical change influences not only the everyday living of lives, but also much grander notions of what life is and how it works in Mae Chaem. Despite this emphasis on agency and change, and no matter the options presented by modern experience, parents and farmers still face age old existential constants. For all its joy and happiness, growth and vibrancy, life is also illness, suffering, adversity, loss, and, inevitably, death. Life poses existential challenges that parents and farmers of Mae Chaem face in both maintaining the health of their fields, and their children. Regardless of changes wrought by the opium trade, the arrival of international NGO’s and Christian missionaries, the building of nations, schools, hospitals, and research stations, or even the pressures and promises of multinational flows of commodity and capital, children still get sick and sometimes die, crops still fail, and farmers and parents still try to make a good life for themselves and their families. My work is an attempt to shed light on the dynamics of local agency within a frame of bio-technical change subject to a constant flux and flow of indigenous and introduced biotechnical knowledge and practice. Both knowledges regarding life (along with the technologies to affect it), and the experiences  31  of life itself, change together within this frame, but the fact that life is unpredictable and sometimes difficult does not.  1.7  Children, Fields, Illness and Health in Mae Chaem In every stream of biotechnical practice available in Mae Chaem, small children  are seen to occupy a special position in the world that requires special treatment18. They are not simply small adults, but are a unique kind of human at a special stage of development attendant with unique ontological relationships and unique physiologies (Mulholland 1987). The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP 2004), consistent with biomedical understandings, recognizes children as more vulnerable than adults to environmental health concerns such as nutritional issues and pesticide exposure because of small body size (small doses of chemicals may have greater proportional effect), unique pathways of exposure (breast milk, play) and because of the special nutritional requirements for a child’s growth and development.19 For Buddhist monks, small children may be understood to enter the world clean and fresh (lai duang sa’aat) and so their health and bodily states are less likely to be conditioned by the accrual of merit and demerit (bun/bap)20. For Maw Muang, young children are still closely tied to the spirit worlds from which they come and are subject to the obligations owing to puu taen yai taen, the spirit ancestors who take care of children before their birth. For the pharmacist or medicine seller, small children are special customers targeted with a range of products specially designed for young palettes and ranging from infant formulas and vitamin charged milk products to especially sweet syrups and chewable tablets for common childhood ills. Within the domestic domain, children’s khwan is seen as particularly  32  fragile. Within the Christian stream, children’s innocence puts them closer to the spirit world of God and heaven21, and for the spirit medium, children are especially likely to be bothered by spirits, or themselves be the spirits of past ancestors, and require particular offerings and treatment. The children of Mae Chaem occupy a particular position within local cosmologies of life. As such, they are seen to be subject to particular kinds of illness, and particular kinds of biotechnical practice. In the same way that parents find themselves responsible for coaxing the unpredictable agency of children’s health towards wellness, farmers also find themselves responsible for coaxing the unpredictability of fields towards the production of rice and other crops. Over the past fifty years, the kinds of child illnesses that parents report, the rates at which they report children getting sick, and the kinds of expertise engaged by parents when child illness occurs, have all changed. Likewise, there have been concurrent changes in the kinds of problems encountered in the fields, the frequency of their occurrence, and the kinds of products and practices used to resolve agricultural problems. These changes are made visible through the parent-farmer narratives. The memories of parents and farmers reflect a changing material ecology in the valley: changing nutrition, changing exposure to pollutants, changing access to clean food or water. They also reflect a changing mental ecology in the valley: changing access to biomedical doctors, changing access to commercial products, changing exposure to media and advertising.  33  1.8  Chapter Outline I have organized the chapters of this thesis into three sections following the  progression of my argument: an introduction to the context of the work and the methods (chapters 1,2,3,4); case studies from parents and farmers and brief ethnographies of the different biotechnological streams in Mae Chaem (chapters 5 through 13); and an analysis, discussion and conclusion (chapters 14 and 15). The first section consists of four chapters including the current introduction, chapters on theory and methods, and a chapter on the ethnographic contexts of my work. I use Chapter Two to highlight some of the key literature, as well as theoretical connections. Chapter four provides a lengthy ethnographic context and historical background for understanding the later chapters. It introduces with broad strokes the valley of Mae Chaem and its place within Thailand through reference to history and ethnography, as well as material drawn from other disciplines. The second section consists of nine related chapters beginning with a series of case studies based on the child health and land use histories provided by parents and farmers in Mae Chaem. Following these case studies, I explore the variety of child health and land use options available in Mae Chaem over the past fifty years. I discuss these as biotechnical streams that engage particular networks of social and technological relationship in bringing child health and land use solutions to Mae Chaem. Each of the chapters included in this section provides a brief ethnography of a particular stream of biotechnology as practiced in the valley and based on interviews with local experts and participant observation in the field. It is an attempt to portray, through narratives,  34  diagrams, accounts, and analysis, both the diversity of the biotechnical stream, and the linking of child health and land use concerns and expertise within them. In these chapters I elaborate on what the locally available biotechnical streams are, how they differently represent illness and suffering, its causation, and treatment, and how these streams, and the actors associated with them, have changed over time. The seven streams that I present are based on thematic analysis of parent and farmer reports regarding their own practices. They are represented by various biotechnical authorities: Buddhist monks, local spirit mediums, Thai and NGO development and health extension agents, traditional ritual and herbal doctors, Christian missionaries and the commercial presence of multinational corporations. The final section moves the discussion from an ethnography of biotechnical systems in the valley towards an analysis of how and why parents and farmers have moved between them over the past fifty years, and what consequence this has had for local experiences of child health and land use. The chapters of this section use both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding the oral histories of land use and child health provided through the parent and farmer interviews in order to outline changes over time. This involves understanding past child health and land use practices and concerns based on the reports of parents and farmers, as well as an exploration of some of the common motivations for selecting between, or combining, particular biotechnical streams in order to deal with particular child health and land use challenges at particular times, as reported by parents and farmers. The reconstruction of child health and land use choices runs from 1952 to 2002 and is an attempt to systematically combine individual narratives into a larger and more collective oral historical picture of  35  biotechnical change in the valley; a picture through which particular trends can be mapped over time. The final chapter, Chapter 14, ties together and summarizes the arguments already made and suggests conclusions and recommendations that may be drawn from them. These are informed by my own analysis as well as the critiques and comments received from older farmers and parents who participated in the research and who reviewed and commented on a preliminary summary of the research findings. Throughout, I have tried to juxtapose academic voice with more reflexive, personal and experience-near narratives stemming from field documents so as to articulate both a convincing and defensible argument, and an ethnographic sensitivity to the lived worlds in which child health and land use decision are situated.  36  Chapter 2:  ‘Thinking’ Anthropology: Theoretical Background 2.0  ‘Thinking’ Anthropology: Theoretical Background Issues of cultural complexity and diversity have long held a central place in the  anthropology of Southeast Asia. Charles Keyes notes that while even the earliest centres of Southeast Asian power were ‘Indianized’ states, they still involved a “welding together of indigenous and Indian conceptions of potency” (Keyes 1979: 66). This age old ‘welding together’ of successive traditions within local Southeast Asian lives has proven to be fertile ground for the anthropological imagination. Theories of culture that allow us to comprehend the multiple systems of meaning at work in Southeast Asia, and that incorporate the richness of both hybrid complexity and individual diversity has been a central, if elusive, goal for decades (Leach 1954, Spiro 1967, Tambiah 1970, Golomb 1985, Scott 1985, Barth 1993, Tsing 2005) and it is a goal that has only increased in value as changes in technology, politics, and commerce all lead towards an increasingly connected future. The highlands of Southeast Asia, northern Thailand included, are at the crossroads of an age-old transnational discourse regarding political, religious, and medical worlds and are probably a better place than most to approach issues of globalization, cultural complexity and hybridity. The challenge of understanding complexity within today’s creolised, hybrid cultural flows is compounded (and confounded) by the same networks of technology, media and science that make them so important. Tracking the flow of culture through  37  technologically mediated networks is one of the chief theoretical and methodological challenges for contemporary anthropology (Appadurai 1996, Giddens 1990, Hannerz 1992). At the centre of many of these debates is the role of local agency and the ability of individuals to select from and localize various aspects of global and technological knowledge, accessed through advertising, education, travel, the internet, or other means, within their own lives and experiences. The vast majority of these efforts have focussed on urban and high tech ‘centres’, but understanding the complexity of competing cultural flows is as important (and as interesting) at the rural and agricultural ‘margins’. It is, however, misleading to think that this focus on cultural complexity and the role of local agency in manoeuvring within it is something new to the anthropology of upland Southeast Asia. The lineage of such issues reaches at least as far back as Leach’s (1954) Political Systems of Highland Burma. At that very different time, and in with very different tone, Leach still captures the same essence: …the overall process of structural change comes about through the manipulation of…alternatives as a means of social advancement. Every individual of a society, each in his own interest, endeavours to exploit the situation as he perceives it and in so doing the collective of individuals alters the society itself. (Leach 1954: 8)  Leach’s famous work is a conceptual touchstone for understanding the complexity of identity and culture in upland SE Asia. But, While Leach argues that Kachin societies oscillated between two possible political models gumlao and Shan, even in late colonial Burma there were more models to choose from than that. Leach himself represented a British colonial model of identity and culture that existed within Kachin lives at the time of his writing.  38  Since Leach’s work in upper Burma, the past fifty years have brought ever increasing diversity to the hills of northern Thailand. In Mae Chaem, life is rife with multiple systems of meaning and complex ecological and cultural histories. Within this context, the aspirations of local actors play out within the dynamics of multiple, ambiguous, and intersecting cultural systems. Through ongoing trade, communication and migration, northern Thai communities have been and continue to be in constant contact with new and more global flows of cultural discourse. Local agents combine these multiple streams of influence, and in the process build syncretic worlds of interpenetrating, enmeshed, and often conflicting cultural meanings. These local cultural worlds enable individuals to bring the dynamic flexibility of diverse (and ambiguous) meanings and responses into play in order to respond to challenging lives, ecologies and histories and in order to achieve desired ends of health, wealth, and happiness. These local worlds fill larger, more impersonal systems of illness, ecology, and technological change with individual voices and both the pragmatics and aesthetics of local choice. In my attempts to understand the flow of culture and change in northern Thailand I have drawn on two central theoretical approaches. In emphasizing the role of local agencies and criteria of choice, I am inspired, in particular, by Fredrick Barth’s articulation of ethnographic complexity in Balinese Worlds (1993), in which he proposes an ‘anthropology of knowledge’ that traces the influence of multiple cultural streams upon the creation of individual cultural worlds in order to understand the complexity and diversity of cultural practice in modern Bali. I owe another large debt to writers on actornetwork theory (ANT) including Bruno Latour, Michelle Callon and John Law. Actornetwork theorists like these have provided a framework for understanding what actor-  39  networks (a roughly analogous concept to Barth’s cultural streams) might consist of, and how ideas, technologies and cultures both move through and constitute them. They argue for an understanding of cultural complexity where humans and non-humans (chemicals, advertisements, technologies) both participate as ‘actants’ that co-determine the shape and extent of cultural flow. The combination of ANT and Barthian ‘streams’ accommodates a diversity of strong, selective local agents and a complexity of cooperating and competing actornetworks and cultural streams. By bringing actor-network theory into contact with Barth’s anthropology of knowledge, I have tried to combine the strong (but often mechanical) sense of local-global and human-nonhuman connection and interaction within ANT with the strong sense of flexibility with the sense of creative local agency that exists in Barth’s approach. For me, this theoretical perspective provides a more useful and flexible lens for understanding the biotechnical complexity of Mae Chaem than other lenses that might focus more on the semiotics or political-economics of the valley. Where I have needed them, I have also drawn on other theoretical threads current in the anthropological literature: ideas of biopower (Foucault 1972 and 1973), issues of local resistance and the making of authoritative medical knowledge (Lock and Kaufert 1998), as well as ideas of knowledge and practice drawn from Bourdieu’s practice theory (1977) and of globalization, modernity and structuration drawn from Giddens’ (1990, 1991). My approach highlights local actors (both human and non-human) as the primary selective agents involved in building local biotechnical worlds, both medical and ecological, according to pragmatic and aesthetic factors22. From this perspective, people build and dwell23 within their cultural worlds while constantly interacting with local  40  environments (non-human actors) and globally influenced socio-cultural, politicaleconomic, and ecological transformations, including the frequently competing (and sometimes cooperating) ‘enrolment’ efforts of both old and new systems of health and land-related practice. In considering old and new systems together, and maintaining my focus firmly on child health and land use change, contemporary northern Thai medical and ecological actants can be understood to include local doctors of biotechnical medicine, village spirit doctors, the various local spirits themselves, Buddhist monks, powerful scriptures and charms (phrá’), pharmaceutical advertisements, international rice markets, the symbolic and chemical power of heroin, herbal medicines, and crystal meth24, agroforestry research scientists, anti-retroviral drugs, bottles of tiger balm, crying children, herbicide and pesticide vendors, health, ecology and ‘drug’ related NGO programs, seasonal droughts, climate change, soil erosion, malaria carrying mosquitos, bank officials, water access, the King of Thailand, community development officials, and Christian missionaries. This is a complex and diverse list of players (and an intentionally long sentence), but the linked medical and ecological worlds of Thai villagers in Mae Chàem and Mae Hàe Tây include all of these, and many more. Most of these are dealt with, to greater or lesser extent, in later chapters, and in terms of how they relate to streams of child health and land use practice. Sorting out the most significant of these actors, and understanding how they are linked, and alternately listened to, ignored, and rejected within northern Thai lives has made up the bulk of my research.  41  2.1  Non-Hegemonic Glocality and the Consequences of Modernity With the increased speed and efficiency of global transport and technological  communication, what Giddens’ (1990) calls decreased time-space distantiation, the actors that make up local Thai communities continue to build culturally meaningful knowledge and effective systems of practice from dynamic experiences and ecologies. While Giddens argues that the speed and rapidity of current communication and transport has created a globalized world with radically different systems of social relations than existed previously, I side with Bruno Latour (1993) and others who hold that broad processes of globalization and modernization are things that humanity in general, and the social sciences in particular, have been dealing with for hundreds (and thousands) of years. While the issue of ‘radical disjuncture’ between the modern and the traditional is not a major theme in my own work, it is a critical subtext25. I would argue that, at least in northern Thailand, there has been no essential or radical disjuncture between the modern and global, and the pre-modern and local. The fundamental processes that shaped northern Thai societies, actor-networks, and power relations in the past were fundamentally conditioned by cultural complexity and antique forms of globalization. These same fundamental processes are still at the core of social, cultural, technological and ecological dynamics today. Northern Thai and Pgha’knyaw continue to build cultural worlds and make decisions based on an increasing range of indigenous, Thai and foreignderived systems of meaning. Lived experience is, as it likely always has been, a process of co-synthesis: turning the chaotic dynamism of embodied reality (and disembodied spirits), together with often contradictory and ambiguous ideas of nature and self, into culturally understandable worlds of knowledge, identity, and practice.  42  This perspective challenges the unique and privileged position of ‘modern’ technology and, with it, notions of modernity and development more generally. Mae Chaem has been at the margins of ‘modern’ systems since the 1950’s, but as such, it is a place where a particularly diverse set of global and local systems of knowledge and practice overlap and compete, but where none holds a particularly dominant position. At least seven distinct, but related medical and land use traditions exist side by side in the valley stemming from traditions of Buddhism, spirit belief, biomedical science, Christian missionization, national development policy, the marketing of multinational corporations and the interventions of NGOs. Within this diversity, the relative power and influence of the various biotechnical streams ebb and flow within local lives. As such, I consider Mae Chaem to be what might be called a non-hegemonic glocality. Its position at the margins of global flows maximizes the diversity of cultural streams while minimizing the hegemonic tendencies often exhibited closer to the centers of ‘modern’ power. This position allows local parentfarmer decisions and agency to play a pronounced role within the diverse fields of knowledge created by the competition of so many systems of health and ecology. Within this multiplicity of forms, ecology and medicine, land use and child health, are fundamentally and experientially connected domains, not only at the level of parents and farmers, but also at larger and smaller scales. In order to understand how this diversity may be structured, we need to listen to how local actors move within and narrate their relationships to various cultural streams, in other words, how these relationships are received and understood within the practice of living and coping with issues of child health and land use. In Barth’s (1993) terms:  43  The context in which any act belongs is contingent and depends on the (probably various) constructions that actors and participants place on it. A major task of ethnography must be to discover and give an account of how acts are placed in these particular contexts, frameworks, or worlds in which people themselves embed those acts through their interpretations of them. Only by modeling our descriptions in a way that captures these connections can we secure the meanings of acts, and understand the processes whereby both lives are shaped and ideas and knowledge are reproduced and changed…(Barth 1993:171-72). Issues of perceived efficacy, access, and cost are wrapped up with issues of loyalty to kin, land, religion, and nation, as well as with the moral and aesthetic values of each choice. It is these kinds of issues that colour the experience of history at the same time as the experience of history in turn shapes them. These local and everyday biotechnical choices constitute the building of cultural worlds from the complex historical, social and ecological realities within which we all, as humans, manoeuvre.26  2.2  Biotechnical Streams: Linking Health and Ecology As highlighted in the first chapter, I use the idea of biotechnical streams to talk  about health practices and land use practices that are linked within particular cultural streams, or actor-networks. I argue that within the complex and dynamic contexts of northern Thailand, shifting between local medical and ecological streams is as much about choosing cultural worlds as it is about choosing medical or land use technologies27. Various kinds of knowledge and practice regarding child health and land use come bundled together in particular ways. As such, choices regarding child health knowledge and practice are tied, at least loosely, to choices regarding local ecological knowledge and ecological practice. Combining, for analytic purposes, particular kinds of health and land use practices within the notion of biotechnical streams, allows us to see patterns and  44  relationships that are otherwise obscured when health and land use are divided into separate domains. Understanding the streams of expert biotechnology that feed into the various local worlds of child health and land use in Mae Chaem, and how they interact, ally, and compete with each other, is a necessary first step into the strange and hybrid waters of local biotechnical choice28. Taking this step allows us to trace the flow of particular streams through local understandings and networks of expertise towards the roots of perceived biotechnical authority and efficacy. This process of tracing requires movement from the identification of local biotechnical strategies towards understanding the expert networks that represent biotechnical authority and then back towards understanding how and why local actors (parents and farmers) manoeuvre between the various representatives of biotechnical authority over time. This same process can be used whether the biotechnical authority is linked to the workings of global capital and technoscience, in the ultimate realities of religious experience, or within the indigenous authorities of social relation and bodily experience. The biotechnical choices of Mae Chaem are not simply about responding to suffering and illness by choosing between various biotechnical resorts and practices which may or may not prove effective. Parents and farmers are not simply dealing with issues of rationality and pragmatic efficiency, but also with issues of aesthetics, cultural affiliation, and identity making. Biotechnical choices involve navigating between paradigms, between systems of knowledge, expertise and authority that embody competing biopowers (Foucault 1978). That is, biotechnical streams actually condition and define the experience of suffering and illness itself while simultaneously providing  45  strategies and resorts for dealing with the problems thereby identified. However, within a biotechnical context as diverse as exists in Mae Chaem, the biopowers of most of the biotechnical streams are anything but complete. Instead of providing an ultimate definition of suffering and illness, each provides only a possible definition. In making choices between biotechnical streams, the pragmatics of economy and result do matter, but so do the aesthetics of identity and experience. And the choices themselves then condition future choices and possibilities. They incrementally change biotechnical worlds and open them up, or close them off, to new possibilities. As Barth (1993) outlines, cultural knowledge is ultimately affected by individual experience, but so does it help shape that experience: The accretions of experience- molded by premises, tacit assumptions, and cultural imagery variably shared in a group- also play an essential role in reproducing and marginally changing the cultural stock of knowledge, and thereby in turn affect the purposes, plans, and intentions that actors embrace and employ to shape their behaviour…But this is a very complex connection; and the exploration and modeling of the whole circuit I envisage as an “anthropology of knowledge”, which still largely remains to be developed. (Barth 1993: 160)  2.3  Streams and ANTs Throughout my writing, I argue that the ecological, social, and biotechnical  contexts of land use and child health, including perceived problems and the practices available to address them, have multiplied and changed over the past fifty years. Parentfarmer interactions with diverse streams, or expert traditions of biotechnology that produce a plethora of localized and hybrid cultural forms and practices, all claiming to be geared to address the existential challenges of life in rural Thailand. I approach each of the various streams as a network of local and global actors, each representing and encoding a particular ontology of the world. Many of the streams are connected through  46  shared knowledge, experts, and technologies, sometimes combining and working together, at other times competing and opposing. All exist in the Mae Chaem valley through varying degrees of external (global) and internal (local) support. Sperber states that, “culture is made up, first and foremost, of…contagious ideas” (1996:1). The same might be said of cultural streams and actor-networks. Each stream is, fundamentally, composed of linked technologies and ontologies, humans and things. This is an actor-network. Central to the workings of actor-network theory (ANT) is the idea that actor-networks have key representatives, referred to as obligatory passage points (OPPs), through which other actors (or actants, if non-human) are enrolled into actornetworks through devices of interessement (Callon 1986). These are the lures that make an actor-network appealing, or in Sperber’s terms, contagious. Within the heterogeneous biotechnical environment of northern Thailand there are multiple biotechnical authorities, each with their own OPPs and their own devices of interessement. These biotechnical OPPs and their devices are doorways to biotechnical power and local parents/farmers manoeuvre between these according to personal goals, desires, and abilities. Each stream or actor-network is fundamentally a corporate group of actants that depends upon attracting new generations of adherents in order to maintain its representatives and strengthen its existence in the valley over time. Alternately competing and complementary cultural streams project themselves via their actor-networks within the existential dramas of rural life. These actor-networks are made up of interconnected institutions, people, ideas and technologies that are active within Mae Chaem through various human and non-human representatives. These range from field spirits to pesticides and from Mae Chaem hospital staff to local monks, herbalists, and spirit  47  mediums. I identify seven actor-networks, each effectively comprising a distinct medical or ecological tradition predicated on (at least partially) shared ontologies, that is, distinct sets of ideas regarding what things exist in the world and how these things are related to each other. From an ANT perspective, it is not only humans that act as agents within streams of health and ecology. Non-human actors exist at all levels of all networks from the supra-human (crop markets, weather patterns), through the sub-human (pharmaceutical drug interactions, bodily processes, ritual effects). This is analogous with indigenous Thai views of health, and the recognition that larger forces from powerful spirits to the wheel of karma, and small forces such as bodily imbalances, are all implicated in health, wealth, and life. The persistence and spread of an actor-network’s particular ontology allows it to define ‘land’ and ‘body’, the maladies that affect these, and the cures that may discipline those maladies. In short, the spread of ideas and practices in Mae Chaem allows for the historical creation and exercise of what Foucault (and many others since him) would call biopower, within the twin spheres of medicine and ecology. However, because of the diversity of medical and ecological actor-networks, and the relative lack of hegemony, they effectively comprise competing forms of biopower that parent-farmers then maneuver between. Each tradition is, at some level, in a battle, trying to win the hearts and minds of the average Mae Chaem citizen, while the parent-farmers of Mae Chaem live at the intersection of their competing biopowers and respond to them according to local goals of health, wealth and happiness. Over the past fifty years people in Mae Chaem have entertained the actants of intersecting streams and actor-networks. In turn, they have built their own worlds of child health and land use from the most promising  48  possibilities offered to them: powerful pharmaceuticals, malevolent field spirits, Buddhist merit and demerit, multinational press campaigns, deadly pesticides, magic words, rain making, drought predictions, genetically modified rice, and many others. The attention paid to these by local agents is fundamental to determining local histories of biotechnical knowledge and practice as well as the success or failure of various streams within in the valley. Parents and farmers either choose from the options around them or else attempt to manoeuvre between them. Each actor-network offers up a vision of health, wealth, and happiness, each has its own representatives and experts, and each forms an (in)distinct stream of biotechnical knowledge, practice, and relations. It is these streams that etch the biotechnical ethnoscape of the valley, carving unique topographies of power and relation. Each stream offers a different sense of what matters in the world, and a different path to get there. And at the centre of these multiple streams of curing, and multiple notions of health and land use problems, are parents and farmers. They are the central agents in Mae Chaem and it is fundamentally within their lives that decisions are made, from their experiences that individual cultural worlds are built, and through their hands that the valley’s biotechnologies change. At its core, my research can be seen as an inquiry into the twin processes of globalization and localization as experienced through northern Thai agency. How does knowledge and choice help shape the flow of local and global traditions within lived practices of health, ecology, and ‘development’ in northern Thailand? How have local agents maneuvered between the various systems of child health and land use practice over the past fifty years, and what have these choices meant? Addressing these issues has involved taking an interest in the various sources of medical and ecological knowledge  49  available, the ways that parents and farmers have put these into practice, and the difference that these choices seem to have made to the experience of life and illness in the valley. This approach locates my research firmly within the phenomenological study of cultural globalization and localization, as well as the emerging field of social studies in technology and science (SSTS). It also places a strong emphasis on the evaluation of the material, ecological, and cultural consequences of local choices within complex cultural flows.  2.4  On Validity: Remembering Development and its Discontents Jonathon Rigg (1997), writing on the tradition of Southeast Asian post-  developmentalism to which Pravit Phothiart and others belong, has argued that negative views regarding the advantages of development and modern technology tend not to revolve around evidence, but instead around unduly nostalgic, romantic and unrealistic assessments of an actually quite difficult and unpleasant Southeast Asian past. To be sure, many post-development writers in Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia do argue from a particular and strongly held ideological position. However, this, in itself, does not mean that their arguments are without warrant and I would argue that, based on the results of my own work, Rigg dismisses them too easily. Grounded in lifetimes of experience and local history, many of the parents and farmers of Mae Chaem see the benefits of modernity as anything but clear. If anyone can argue grounding in the particulars of the Southeast Asian past, it is likely them. Taken together, the accounts of most local parents and farmers, and those of Thai post-development writers, strike a dissonant (and dissident) chord against much simpler and less ambiguous notions of rural tradition and modern development. As shown in later  50  chapters, local narratives of child health and land use in Mae Chaem, while diverse, resonate with the complex and ambiguous images of rural life common to critical Thai writing on development issues. The critical question then becomes whether or not these ambiguous local assessments of historic change are biased by nostalgic, romantic, and unrealistic perceptions of the past. At the level of image and narrative, they strike counter-image and counter-narrative. But can the memories, critiques, and understandings of local parents and farmers (in short, their oral histories), be regarded as a reasonable account of actual health and land use change over time? One of the key problems in this debate, and in my thesis, is that the past is not directly accessible to academics. Nor is it accessible to younger people who have not lived through the history of biotechnical experience in a particular locality. We can only understand past activities as mediated by memory, media or by archival records. This is complicated by the fact that knowledge encoded in written accounts of the past is almost always privileged by academics over the knowledge encoded in oral accounts of the past29. Both inside and outside anthropology literate academics tend to privilege particular forms of historic data (such as written archival material) over other forms of historic data (such as remembered and orally recounted histories). Where the memories of parents and farmers confirm written documents then they are easy to accept. But what do we do when the memories and assessments of parents and farmers contradict written documents, or in the absence of written documents, contradict deeply entrenched notions of ‘modern’ society? It is tempting to avoid these difficult questions. From the perspective of narrative, what people say about their past, how they remember and reconstruct it, is more important than what actually happened. It is based  51  on current memories and reconstructions that current decisions and choices are made, not on what ‘actually’ happened. On this basis we can choose to let the sleeping dog lie, but this seems to me to be a somewhat unhappy compromise. We still have the problem of why parents and farmers in Mae Chaem remember the past as a better place than the present, and are left with the disturbing possibility that they may be right. To defend the privileges of western developmentalism we can, in the absence of documentary evidence, easily dismiss the memories of parents and farmers as based on nostalgia rather than reality, as Riggs does the writing of Thai post-development scholars. However, I argue that careful anthropological research and analysis of remembered life experiences can inform this quandary and provide insight into both past events and present reconstructions of those events. In suggesting this epistemological possibility, I do not mean to suggest that parents and farmers are not situated political actors or that memory cultures are not often flexible and subjective. However, I do mean to suggest that ethnographic research, carefully applied and using consistent methods, can be used to collect oral histories and understand them in a way that focuses on what oral histories say about their referent (that is, the remembered past), rather than on how they relate as narrative or discourse to the particular positioning of the narrator. I argue that at the level of accurate reflection of actual changes in the experience of sickness (in rice or children), living histories of memory and narrative can be more than subjective image, narrative and discourse. This remains true in the presence or absence of documentary evidence that can support or contradict oral accounts. As such, I would maintain that the memories of Mae Chaem’s parents and farmers can be analysed as narratives of meaning, but can also be analysed to trace local  52  experiences of health and land use change into the past with a reasonable expectation of historical accuracy. In making this argument, I am not allying myself with some form of naïve ethnographic positivism. Discourse and subjectivity are very real and important factors, but oral history can involve more than meaning and identity. Ethnographic interviews, when designed to do so, can involve the participant and the ethnographer, not only in telling stories, but in telling stories about the experience of particular things. By collecting many people’s experiences of many particular things together, remembered and orated histories can provide a powerful tool for understanding and tracing how particular things, in this case crop problems and sick children, have changed over time.  2.5  Other Studies Ronald Renard (2001) provides a noteable historical analysis of northern Thai  development where its evaluation is based on the standards of that development. Renard’s work is fundamentally a historical analysis of Thai and international NGO funded development programs in the north with particular emphasis on opium eradication and crop replacement. Renard uses historical documents to evaluate the success of development in the north using measures of success that are closely linked to the kinds of information that development agencies were interested in collecting at the time (opium production rates, child mortality, income levels, etc.). What is missing from his work is the wealth of information regarding changes in other values (child morbidity, incidence of pesticide use) that exists in the minds, memories, and stories of local people. As a result, it is not surprising that Renard’s evaluation of development in northern Thailand, using the measures and values enshrined by that development, sees the results of development in Thailand in a largely positive light. A different perspective is gained  53  through paying attention to local histories of change. While I have used the sparse and selective archival documents that are available for Mae Chaem where possible, I situate my own work as a backwards glance that is largely based on a systematic collection and analysis of the rich local memories and histories of Mae Chaem parents and farmers. The work of Sanitsuda Ekachai, a popular journalist with the national Thai English language daily, The Bangkok Post, provides one perspective on Mae Chaem: What would a traditional rice-growing Thai community have been like before modernism set in? What was it that we once used to be? Answers may be found at Mae Jaem, a valley community hidden away behind Doi Inthanon, the country’s highest peak. Protected by its isolation, this district maintains much of the system of beliefs and traditions that were once universal among Thais. It holds a glimpse of what we once held dear and what we have lost in our frantic search for something ‘better’... (Sanitsuda 1994: 02) The above quote began the first of a series of newspaper editorials published in the early 1990’s. The series of articles on Mae Chaem (Mae Jaem in Sanitsuda’s transliteration) were later published by a Bangkok based NGO, the Thai Development Support Committee. Sanitsuda is one of Thailand’s foremost activist-journalists and her articles comprise one of the few extended commentaries on the Mae Chaem valley. In Sanitsuda’s words, Baan Paa Daed, a village just outside Mae Chaem’s district centre, is “Thailand’s Shangri-La…embraced by mountains and crisscrossed by running brooks” (ibid: 13), but the valley becomes a gloss not only for the vibrant potential of traditional Thai culture, but also for the tragic consequences of modern change. Mae Chaem is, “more than a magnifying glass of an idyllic past,” (ibid: 08) it is also where: we see a microcosm of the effects of development and modernisation on local communities in Thailand. The villagers are struggling to maintain the values and traditions that remain meaningful to them as they face real economic hardship from lifestyles encouraged or imposed upon them from the outside…The dilemma they now face is how to resist the economic 54  exploitation and materialistic values that threaten their existence while, at the same time, responding to the new needs and potentials arising from within their own communities. (ibid: xii). In Mae Chaem, Sanitsuda’s romantic and activist gaze sees the vestiges of a coherent and balanced cultural and ecological system that was once shared by all Thais, but that has been damaged by connections to a homogenizing and capitalist world outside. Mae Chaem is, “a replay of an old story that the government has never learned from: how ‘development’ undermines and finally destroys a self sustaining community” (ibid: 11). New roads and televisions have brought an influx of “new values and aspirations,” and, “trying to catch up with city life styles, farmers [have] switched from self-sufficiency to cash crop cultivation”. In Sanitsuda’s analysis, since the 1970’s this has led to massive deforestation, water scarcity, overuse of farm chemicals and increasing debt, a process whereby: …the very basis of agrarian culture- the land- is taken away from the community. Its magic is evaporating. Now, Mae Jaem is clinging to the final traces of its culture. It is only a matter of time before the last thread snaps. (ibid: 11). In my own understanding of Mae Chaem, the immanent danger of ‘snapping threads’ is not nearly so clear. Nor are any of the other characterizations of the valley. Major changes have occurred in Mae Chaem over the past fifty years, and particularly since the 1970’s with the construction of the first roads. While at the surface the general currents of change noted by Sanitsuda are present, a deeper look reveals swirling eddies and competing under-toes that run counter to Sanitsuda’s overriding sense of ascendant modernity and traditional decline. The role of local agents and their ability to negotiation of the tradition-development divide is far more complex than Sanitsuda’s dyadic sense of ‘resistance’ or ‘surrender’ makes it appear. In Mae Chaem of my experience the  55  consequences of globalization, modernity and development flow over, but also contour around the interests of local actors. In contrast to Sanitsuda’s work on Mae Chaem is that of the staff and faculty of Chiang Mai University and its affiliated centres, as well as other scholars.. Several researchers associated with the International Centre for Agroforestry Research (ICRAF) have written extensively on the transitional agricultural practices of Mae Chaem, particularly in relation to the ecological consequences of reduced upland swidden (Prasit 2001). But while there is more detail for urban areas such as the city of Chiang Mai, to my knowledge, only one detailed account of historical health change in a remote northern Thai valley exists (Kunstadter 1986). This account, involved research associated with a study on demographic change and infant mortality in the Mae Hong Son valley, adjacent to Mae Chaem in the early 1980’s. Kunstadter’s work encountered a similar paucity of archival documents as my own study and so relied upon remembered oral reports going back more than fifty years. The objective of Kunstadter’s study was to better understand the realities of demographic changes associated with ‘development’ in northern Thailand, and especially as related to changing mortality (and to a lesser extent morbidity) in the area. The study found that data on causes of morbidity for particular ethnic communities developed through seven-day recall surveys and reviews of hospital records generally echoed the causes of mortality reported in the reproductive histories of parents. My own analysis, is similar to Kunstadter in that it takes the narratives of Mae Chaem parents and farmers as a useful source of information regarding changing health practices, but it differs from Sanitsuda’s and Renard’s accounts in that careful attention to Mae Chaem’s narratives refutes an uncomplicated understanding of developmental  56  history in Mae Chaem as a progression from either a backward or romantic past towards either a bright, or dark and threatened future. My own work considers post-development perspectives that view the benefits of development, at least in terms of child health and land use, with deep ambiguity, but does so with reference to the oral histories of parents and farmers, and where possible, the documented histories of hospitals and academics. Other anthropologists (Guillette et al. 1998) have addressed childhood exposure to pesticides in other places but have not paid explicit attention to bringing local histories to bear on understanding change over time. Within the contexts of contemporary rural Thai lives, images of the past and future, positive and negative, simple and complex, exist together, complementing and competing with each other. There is no clear and universally accepted winner within the diversity of biotechnical worlds available in Mae Chaem. Shops filled with pesticides sit next to temples filled with Buddhas, high tech cash crops are farmed by Karen in handwoven shirts, pharmaceutical pills and NGO vaccinations are taken along with spirit rituals and forest medicines. Understanding the complexity of the available concepts of Life in northern Thailand involves understanding how knowledge and practice flow through networks of biotechnical authority, and how local actors move between these alternate authorities in pursuit of happiness, success and a healthy life. It requires an understanding of the choices implied and the interests at stake in seeing and accepting one set of biotechnical images or another as real, as authoritative and as reliable. Such choices matter. Important decisions are made in accepting one image of life, or another, as grounds (or partial grounds) upon which to understand and affect the health of children and the productivity of fields. The choices of parents and farmers have real  57  implications for the health of children and the success of crops in the valley. They make a difference in biological experience. While some of these differences may be seen by local actors and articulated within individual narratives (i.e., they are emic), other trends and consequences in land use and child health practice can be traced only through taking a step back. This thesis involves thematic analysis of statements made by particular speakers, but it also involves a broader analysis that takes all of the oral narratives as a composite whole. Taking many individual health and land use narratives together and recognizing them as parts of a broader composite oral history that can be used, through etic analysis, to map and articulate change over time, is one way of taking a step back.  58  Chapter 3:  ‘Doing’ Anthropology: Methodological Background 3.0  ‘Doing’ Anthropology: Methodological Background Why do particular Thai actors choose to affiliate with particular (or multiple) health  ideologies at particular points in time, particularly within the lived processes of building and adjusting personal medical worlds within dynamic ecological and cultural surroundings? Beyond theory, Barth (1993) provides a strategy for doing anthropology based on the notion of culture flowing in streams: we can start by looking at the way certain connected activities in the village link up with the historical traditions or streams that have contributed to the cultural stock … One can readily identify several such, each with distinct organizational networks and discongruent knowledge and assumptions... Each of these is today embraced to variable degrees, or by some people only, within the total population…and each such stream is itself constituted as an internal discourse, a process reflecting a distribution of knowledge, authority, and social relationships, which propels those enrolled in it. Pursuing the social links within such a stream, moreover will regularly lead us not just outside villages but also outside the region … embedding local persons and circles in systems of much larger, and in some cases, global scale.” (p. 173). I designed and carried out my research in Mae Chaem very much in the vein advocated by Barth. My goal has been to contribute an ethnographically grounded response to the question of how and why local actors build the medical worlds that they do within dynamic historical, ecological, social, and political-economic contexts. I have also tried to answer these questions in a way that may ultimately prove useful to the communities of Mae Chaem, as well as to anthropologists and other academics working  59  in the area, but this is often a very difficult task (McKinnon and Vienne 1989, Cooke and Kothari 2001). My research covers an ambitious breadth. It spans issues of local agency, health and ecology within complex cultural contexts and over a long period of time, and as such, a well-defined set of research objectives has been essential for structuring the research and maintaining its focus. Even with well defined objectives, in many places I have collected enough information for a dozen dissertations. Despite this, I have understood my overall research questions within a framework of three objectives: two ethnographic objectives and a third more analytic objective, all with associated methodological steps. The three objectives include:  Objective 1)  Documentation of the ‘Biotechnical Streams’:  Taking from Barth (ibid) my first task was to identify and describe the “historical traditions or streams that have contributed to the cultural stock” of health and land use knowledge and practice in Mae Chaem. This involved attention to the particulars of what I have call biotechnical streams, both medical and ecological, accessed by parents and farmers in the valley, including the representatives that advocate for them, their perceived sources of power, values, orientations and limitations. The primary method used to achieve this objective was a set of ‘expert’ interviews and participant observation engaged in during the first half of my field work.  60  Objective 2)  Documenting Parent Farmer Narratives of Changing Child Health and Agricultural Land Use  Recognizing that the relationship of local agents to biotechnical streams is dynamic, my next objective was to document how individual parents have moved between the various streams available to them. I did this by documenting their remembered child health and land use practices over time. This involved building a set of remembered individual child health and land use narratives chronologically ordered over the past 50 years, and broadly representative of the valley as a whole. Child health and land use narratives were collected from each person for several concurrent years with attention paid to their remembrance of child health concerns, practices, illness episodes and treatment patterns, as well as a similar range of issues with regards to agricultural land use. The primary method used to achieve this objective was a large set of detailed parent-farmer interviews providing careful documentation of concurrent land use and child health narratives for seventy eight families between 1952 and 2002.  Also involved in this objective has been an attempt to find written historic and archival documents (rooted in Thai bureaucratic/scientific knowledge) of local health and health practice over the same period. My attempts to find relevant archival accounts have met with limited success.  Objective 3)  Analysis of Relationships between Changing Child Health and Agricultural Land Use Practices and Concerns from 1952 through 2002  This objective involved analysis of the historical child health and land use narratives individually, and taken as a whole. Thematic analysis was focussed at  61  the individual level in order to understand particular trajectories of practice. A more quantitative approach, focussed on description of the data as a collective whole, was used to interpret the narratives together. The focus of this work was to identify relationships between the remembrance of particular child health and land use practices, and remembrance of particular patterns in child health and land use experience. Of particular interest to me has been the issue of how local agency engages with the enrolment efforts of actor-networks, and how this connects to other ecological, social, or political-economic transformations at local and global levels.  3.1  The Origins of the Thesis: A Reflexive Background Ethnography is not simply a recording of culture expressed to the anthropologist  by the ‘other’, and academic studies do not spring full born from the minds of theorists. Ethnographic research is a dialogic and productive interaction between participants, some anthropological, some not, but all coming from their own places and bringing with them their own conceptual ‘things’ and social relationships. Ethnography is an account of what is learnt from the productive friction (Tsing 2005) that occurs between the participants in an encounter. Understanding ethnography involves understanding what the anthropologist brings to the research process as well as what the ‘others’ bring to it. I first spent time in Thailand in the early 1990’s as part of an international youth exchange living for four months in a small Thai-Lao village in the northeast border province of Muk Daharn. I was confronted with how different the world can be when lived in another place and seen through another set of cultural eyes and that first  62  experience of rural Thailand was a formative one. Even then I was impressed by the diversity of medical traditions that flowed within the little village: spirit mediums, Buddhist monks, medical clinics with herb gardens in the back, and khwan ceremonies providing various approaches to the inevitable challenges of life and death. I returned to Canada fascinated by a taste of an alternate cultural universe bundled with attendant possibilities, puzzles and complications. On my return I spent several years completing a BA and then an MA in anthropology, hungry to understand more of the cultural complexities of my own homeland. I wrote an MA thesis on the impacts of industrial development in northern Canadian First Nations communities and worked for several years as a consultant for First Nations communities in northern BC and Alberta who thought a trained anthropologist might be useful in mapping and articulating traditional land use where it was at odds with industrial development concerns. In 2000, almost a decade after my first experiences in rural Thailand, I submitted a brief proposal to the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to conduct doctoral research on, “the diversity of global and local medical systems that coexist in rural Thailand”. That proposal was accepted and launched me into many years of PhD study. It was because of these early connections that I began to reflect on my research plans in light of concerns that I had heard from First Nations communities back in Canada. In many First Nations communities people draw links between health and environmental change. However, many First Nations communities also find it difficult to convince governments and developers of these links. Rooted in the words and worlds of Cree and Dene communities in northern Canada, I began to wonder if health change and  63  land use change in northern Thailand might be seen as similarly connected as something linked to the whole flow of development and modernity in rural communities. As an anthropologist I was particularly interested in what local memories and histories of change might have to say regarding this. Over time, and as research in Thailand progressed, it became clear that in rural Thailand, as in Aboriginal Canada, health and land use are linked together but the links are related to particular experiences, particular choices, and particular structures of authority that are experienced, lived, and narrated both in the village and at higher levels. My research became focussed on issues of local choice, and how technologies, in particular, entangle health and ecology within particular understandings of the world.  3.2  Scope: Why Mae Chaem? Why Fifty Years? Why Child Health? The scope of my work has been defined by several key choices. One of these was  the choice to do my work in Mae Chaem. Another was the choice to focus on child health. A third was the choice to focus on changes over a fifty year period. I chose to do my work in Mae Chaem primarily because of the complex and interesting history of change I knew had occurred in the valley, and the relatively compressed and intense development efforts that the valley has been subject to. I knew from colleagues at Chiang Mai University and the University of British Columbia that these related largely to its history as an area of opium production and the resulting attention from national Thai and international NGO development agencies. The fact that my contacts in Chiang Mai were also able to facilitate introductions to the valley also played a major role in my decision to situate my work in Mae Chaem.  64  The decision to focus on child health and its relationship to ecological change came about largely because of my interest in local systems for understanding and treating the body, as well as the understanding that children tend to be more sensitive receptors of environmental health effects than adults. Health problems related to infectious disease, poor nutrition, or pesticides in Thailand are all likely to have disproportional effect on children under five (Ralana 1989). This is due to a number of reasons, including greater childhood nutritional requirements, lower body mass resulting in lower tolerance of contaminants, and particular kinds of play and interaction that expose small children to greater disease and contaminant vectors (US EPA 1995, UNEP 2004). In a study on pesticide use by Hmong farmers in Chiang Mai province, Kunstadter et al: (2001) found large portions of Hmong adults with risky or unsafe levels of cholinesterase inhibition, an indicator of exposure to particular pesticides, and found that exposure rates were as high among those who did not actually apply pesticides as among those who did, suggesting exposure by routes other than direct application. Children in both upland and lowland Mae Chaem may have contact with agricultural chemicals in a general way through ambient exposure through the foods, water, air, and soil of the valley. At certain times of the agricultural cycle when cash crops are being sprayed, the unpleasant smell (min) of chemicals wafting in from the fields permeates the air of the district centre. Parents and farmers also frequently raise concerns regarding the presence of chemicals in foods at the market and in waters running down from cash cropping areas in the surrounding hills. Beyond ambient routes of exposure, the children of farmers who use pesticides in their fields are at risk of higher levels of exposure than those of farmers who do not use pesticides. Parents bring agro-chemicals home from the fields unintentionally on skin and  65  clothes to the domestic realm where food is prepared and children’s clothes are washed. As well, because they are valuable, storeage of spraying equipment and chemicals is often done within the domestic compound, and because water is often more reliable and plentiful in the village (because of domestic water systems) than in the fields (especially unirrigated fields), rinsing of equipment and mixing of chemicals with water for application in the fields is also often done nearby the homes of pesticide using families. While older children in Mae Chaem spend much of their day at school, younger children often remain at home or accompany their parents to the fields to help with work or play nearby. As well, very young children who may accompany their mothers to work in the fields, are also potentially exposed to concentrations of fat-soluble contaminants through breast milk. Finally, while both children and parents in a household may be exposed to agrochemicals, children are more likely to be affected by lower levels of chemical exposure than adults. Similar to how the safe and effective dose of aspirin for a child is lower than the safe and effective dose for an adult, the unsafe dose of contaminants for a child is lower than the unsafe dose for an adult. Based on these understandings, while parents and farmers who apply and work with agro-chemicals risk direct acute exposures resulting in rashes, headaches, or other immediate symptoms requiring treatment, a child’s body is also subject to exposure and is more likely to react to lower levels of exposure. Children not yet attending school are likely to have higher levels of exposure than school aged children, and children of pesticide using households are likely to have higher levels of exposure to agro-chemicals both within the household and in their family’s fields than the children of non-pesticide using households. At least in terms of biophysical effects, if  66  there are connections between changing ecological practices and changing bodily health in northern Thailand, the health of children is likely to be especially sensitive to them. Another reason for focussing on child health is that while parents and farmers are both key agents in making decisions regarding child health and land practices, respectively, both lands and children are experienced as mysterious and often difficult entities that may cooperate, or not, with the ministrations of concerned parents, farmers, and biotechnical agents. In this way, at least, children and fields seem to allow for an interesting comparison in the strategies used by local actors to affect the unpredictability of life. Finally, the decision to focus on a temporal scope reaching back 50 years provides contemporary narratives of child illness dating from before the extension of national Thai and NGO development programs into the valley, including Thai prohibitions on opium in 1959 and the resulting decades of national and international intervention. A fifty year time span opens up the possibilities of enquiry to include the whole sweep of what is commonly understood of as ‘modernity’: the period of the ‘green revolution’, the Thai village development movement, pro- and anti-communist movements, development of significant infrastructure (schools, health clinics, roads, power, etc.) and tourism, the transition towards cash crops, and the rise of national and international NGO’s and multinational corporations in the north. While not all of these areas were fully investigated, all were possibilities. At a more pragmatic methodological level, fifty years is also near the realistic limits of living memory. A mother or father who was a new parent in 1952 at the age of twenty would be into their seventies at the time of my field work. While living memory is not always a stable medium within which to record the past, particularly over a fifty year  67  period, the actions taken to remedy one’s sick child or to counter a threat to the productivity of one’s own fields, are significant and directly experienced life events that, based on the detail and internal consistency of histories collected in Mae Chaem, can be recalled with at least moderate accuracy by parent-farmers even fifty years later. To be sure, such recollection is also a reflection of the social memory of the community, particularly as the health of children and the success of crops are frequent subjects of conversation and comment in rural Mae Chaem. However, I would argue that the social conditioning of memory, at least in Mae Chaem, has less effect on the recall of particular directly experienced life events than it does on the broader recollection of historical change which those particular life events are considered a part of. The assumption of at least moderate accuracy in parent-farmer recall of particular child health concerns and practices over long time spans is reinforced by Peter Kunstadter’s work in the 1980’s on child mortality and morbidity in the Mae Hong Son valley, discussed later in this chapter. Much of my analysis is based on the division of the fifty year period from 1952 to 2002 into five equal decades30. While this division is partially for convenience and comparability between decades, it also has historical rationale. The mid-1960’s saw some of the earliest efforts by the Thai government to ‘develop’ what was then a very isolated rural valley. As such, the decade from 1952-1962 reflects a period prior to the establishment of permanent roads and state institutions in the valley, and a time when Mae Chaem was still relatively isolated and weakly integrated into the Thai state. The period from 1963-1972 was a transitional one that saw increased state involvement in Mae Chaem and the first nationally sponsored efforts at ‘development’ including the introduction of new cash crops, basic national health services, the building of the first  68  roads and the establishment of the first secular school in the valley. These development efforts corresponded with growing national level concerns regarding Communist and Vietnamese influence in the North. The years from 1973 through 1982 saw increased fear of Communist influence and the arrival of intensive opium replacement efforts, including advocacy of pesticide intensive cash crops, and increasing integration with the Thai state through the development of the Doi Inthanon road. These efforts were led largely by the Thai military and international NGO’s such as USAID. 1983 through 1992 saw continued integration of Mae Chaem into the Thai state and ongoing development efforts oriented towards poverty reduction, while the period from 1993 through 2002 saw this trend continue, but with increased concerns regarding the potential environmental effects of rapid development. Parents caring for sick children nurture an unpredictable and sometimes uncooperative subject. In much the same way, the biotechnologies of rice farming are designed to coax a successful rice or cash crop harvest from a sometimes difficult earth. Through the interviews the kinds of child illnesses and land use problems that parents report, the rates at which they report children getting sick, or having problems in the fields, and the kinds of expertise engaged by parents when child illness or agricultural problems occur, were all tracked and changes over time made visible. These reflect a changing material ecology in the valley: changing nutrition, changing exposure to pollutants, changing access to clean food or water. They also reflect a changing mental ecology in the valley: changing religious values, exposure to media and advertising, changing access to biomedical doctors, changing access to commercial products. As  69  changes have occurred in the material and mental ecologies of child health, so have they occurred in the material and mental ecologies of land use and crop health.  3.3  Timeline and Overview of Methods  Fieldwork related to this thesis took place over a total of approximately 15 months spent in northern Thailand over a series of four trips made from 2002 through 2004. The majority of this time was spent in the Mae Chaem valley itself where I lived with my wife and nine year old daughter for the duration. A brief chronology of my fieldwork and associated methodologies is contained in Figure 3.1 below.  Figure 3.1: Chronology of Fieldwork Time Period  Primary Field Activity and Location  May-June 2001  Scoping and Field Site Identification  October-December 2002  Set-up and Expert Interviews (primarily in and around the Mae Chaem district centre)  December 2002-January 2003  Group Interviews (district centre and Mae Hae Tai)  January-June 2003  Parent-Farmer Interviews on child health and agricultural land use (focussed on district centre and Mae Hae Tai)  June 2003- February 2004  Preliminary Analysis (Canada)  February-April 2004  Follow-up interviews and Community Review (focussed on district centre and Mae Hae Tai)  70  My first trip to northern Thailand involved scoping out a field site and developing the institutional relationships and connections needed to engage in extended fieldwork. The following year I returned to conduct the main body of the research conducted between October 2002 and June 2003, a period that was interrupted by a return trip to Canada in March to attend to the passing away of my grandmother and to avoid the bloody consequences of Prime Minister Thaksin’s state-sponsored ‘War on Drugs’ which saw the execution style shooting deaths of more than a dozen people in Mae Chaem and more than twenty-five hundred in the country as a whole. The early months of this main trip focussed on training, methodology refinement, and generally getting my bearings through interviews with recognized biotechnical experts. Twenty-eight expert interviews were conducted and translated with a wide range of local experts in child health or land use ranging from biomedical doctors and government agents to Buddhist monks, spirit mediums and multinational agrocorporation representatives. It is upon these expert interviews that my documentation of biomedical streams in Mae Chaem is largely based. In December 2002 and January 2003 four group interviews (two in Mae Chaem, two in Mae Hae Tai), each involving six community members, were conducted in order to develop locally based chronologies of change in the two communities. These interviews were designed to begin developing a sense of the historical dynamics surrounding child health and land use in the valley. The group interviews were gender specific (male and female respondents participated in separate groups) but each involved two younger, two middle aged, and two older participants.  71  In 2003, following the expert and group interviews, our research team began the long process of carrying out parent-farmer interviews with seventy eight individuals from across southern Mae Chaem. The interviews were semi-structured and followed a consistent set of questions that were repeated for each year documented. Details of the parent-farmer interview process are discussed below. Archival research was also conducted, but the usefulness of this was limited. More than a thousand digital photos and over four hundred pages of fieldnotes were collected. Following this main research phase, I returned to my family in Vancouver to conduct a preliminary analysis of the completed interviews. I returned to Mae Chaem for three months in early 2004 to conduct follow-up interviews. Follow up interviews were designed to elaborate or clarify issues raised during the main research phase. These interviews also served as an opportunity to review the preliminary results of my analysis with elder community members from Mae Chaem and solicit local responses to and interpretations of my findings. The majority of interviews and participant observation took place in two focal communities: the district centre of Mae Chaem and the more remote upland and largely Christian Karen community of Mae Hae Tai (also called Mae Hae Kii) , both discussed in greater depth in later chapters. Interviews were conducted in Thai and Skaw Karen (Pghakinyaw) with local Thai and Pghakinyaw co-researchers providing linguistic and interpretive support. Additional and supplemental interviews were conducted in the Hmong village of Baan Pui, the Buddhist Pghakinyaw villages of Baan Mae Raek and Baan Paa Phung, and the Thai and Hmong cash cropping community of Lomphong. All of these sites are located within the southern half of the Mae Chaem valley.  72  3.4  Local Connections My arrival in Mae Chaem was facilitated by researchers associated with the  International Centre for Research in Agroforestry at the University of Chiang Mai. My first weeks in the valley involved finding a home for myself and my family, introducing ourselves and the possible intrusion of my work to the communities that I hoped to work with, and building the relationships with community members and co-researchers that would provide the foundation for later work. Several researchers at the University of Chiang Mai, some of whom I had corresponded with from Canada, already enjoyed strong relationships with communities in Mae Chaem, including the upland Karen village of Mae Hae Tai. In particular, Ajaan Prasit Wangpakapatanawong of Chiang Mai’s Department of Biology was both a kind friend and a key ally in introducing me to the valley. With the help of Ajaan Prasit and other early assistance by ICRAF staff and students, I arranged to rent a house and met with the school principal to make arrangements for my seven year old daughter to begin attending the local school. We also posted several notices around town (at the temples, the central market, and at a government office on the edge of town). The notices announced that a Canadian researcher was looking for two research assistants from the valley who could help carry out a one year research project on child health and land use change. One would help arrange interviews in upland Karen communities and would translate from Karen to Thai, the other would help arrange interviews in the lowland Thai communities and help translate from Thai to English. Interviews for the two positions were to be held at the ICRAF office in one week. The salary was several hundred baht per day, slightly higher  73  than that of an average Thai school teacher. I was able to hire an exceptional research team of three local co-researchers within the first month of my stay in Mae Chaem. These three co-researchers quickly became both good friends, and central players in the successes and challenges encountered in the ensuing months of field work. Other than my self, our research team included: •  Khun Surasit, a father, farmer and trained Karen-Thai translator from Mae Hae Tai who had two young children and several upland rice fields of his own. He was recommended to our project by a well respected Karen community liaison for ICRAF, my institutional affiliate at the University of Chiang Mai. Surasit played a central role in all of the highland and Karen interviews.  •  Khun Laan, a young woman from Baan Kong Kaan near the district centre. She was a graduate in business from a Chiang Mai agricultural university who operated a noodle stand and then a small bar in the district centre before becoming a researcher with the project. She brought with her a keen awareness of local social dynamics and an innate gift for making people comfortable within the context of an ethnographic interview.  •  Khun Raewat, a new father and excellent Thai-English translator from Baan Paa Dtaet near the district centre. Khun Raewat was a native of Chiang Mai city who had married into the valley. He had graduate training in agronomy from a university in the Philippines and was unique in Mae Chaem for both his excellent English and his Christian faith, both of which he picked up during his time studying abroad. Khun Raewat was an invaluable asset whenever the subtleties of an interview with local parent-farmers or biotechnical experts went beyond the limits of my own Thai language ability.  In my first few days in Mae Chaem I made a series of early and critical decisions: where we would live, who would my research assistants be, who I would interact with on a day to day basis. These early decisions, made quickly and based on only the sketchiest of understandings of the valley’s dynamics, were probably the most important ones I made in Mae Chaem and set the foundation for all my later work. They have strongly influenced my work and contributed, in large part, to the very nature of the Mae Chaem that I have come to know. It is upon this slightly haphazard and jury-rigged foundation,  74  based on subjective and aesthetic decisions as much as on scientific or pragmatic ones, that fieldwork is based.  3.5  Detailed Methods  Our first weeks together involved my co-researchers helping me to understand the basic goings on of the valley while I trained them in the basics of ethnographic research and translation. Early in our work we sought permission to conduct interviews, and initial advice regarding them, from a series of community leaders, including the village headmen, the tambon (sub-district) councils, senior monks, and respected elders. Formal meetings were arranged in both the district centre and in upland Mae Hae Tai in order to introduce the research and myself to community leaders, and solicit feedback from them regarding my initial research plans. Following these initial steps we were able to begin work on the three core stages of research that have resulted in this thesis.  3.5.1  Expert Interviews Following the establishment of the research team and arrangement of logistics, the  initial substantive stage of research involved developing a detailed understanding of the various streams of land use and child health current in the valley. Following Barth’s approach, already mentioned above, our work in Mae Chaem began with trying to identify the biotechnical streams accessed by parents and farmers in the valley, and then following these streams to identify their key actors and representatives both within and outside the valley. While Barth (1993) recognizes these links and actors as primarily social ones, I would argue, more in line with actor-network theory, that technological and ecological actants are equally as important. I began this process through working with my 75  coresearcher to develop an initial list of local ‘experts’ in health and land use that parents and farmers might turn to if they had problems with the health of their fields or the health of their children. This initial list was developed largely through discussions within the interview team and was refined and adjusted through the group interview process and later analysis. This list of biotechnical experts was used to structure the process of conducting a series of thirty-two detailed key expert interviews with various biotechnical experts active in Mae Chaem within the domains of land use and health. In addition to formal key expert interviews, this research also involved less formal interactions and participantobservation at the sites of medical and ecological practice. Figure 3.2 summarizes the key biotechnical expert interviews and other methods used:  Figure 3.2: Summary of Expert Interviews Biotechnical Expert Buddhist Monks Spirit Mediums Biomedical Doctors and Nurses Pharmacists and Drug Sellers Local Doctors (Maw Muang) Birth Attendants (Maw Tamyeh) Public Health Nurse (Anamai) Senior Public Health Officials Massage Therapists (Maw Nuat)  Primary Methods Used Three key expert interviews, participant observation at various temple rituals and celebrations. Three Key expert interviews, participant observation at various rituals and related celebrations. Two key expert interviews, participant observation at Mae Chaem hospital. Two key expert interviews, participant observation at pharmacies and with drug sellers at local markets. Three key expert interviews, participant observation during healing rituals and other medical interactions. Two key expert interviews. Three key expert interviews and participant observation at anamai at Mae Hae Tai, Baan Paa Dtaet. One key expert interview One key expert interview, participant observation.  76  Pesticide Sellers NGO and Government Agricultural Extension Officers Farmers Cooperative Staff Multinational Contract Staff Christian Ministers (Pgha’knyaw) Community Elders (Mae Chaem and Mae Hae Tai)  Three key expert interviews, participant observation at pesticide shops in Mae Chaem district centre. Three key expert interviews. One key expert interview. Two key expert interviews. One key expert interview and participant observation. Two key expert interviews and participant observation.  The key expert interviews were designed to assist the development of a broad understanding of the various streams of health and land use available in Mae Chaem over the past fifty years, the sources of these paradigms, and possible connections between them. Interviews were completed in the district centre, as well as surrounding Pgha’knyaw and Muang communities. They were conducted during visits to the locations of practice for the various experts interviewed. This included audiences with monks at the local temples, visits to the homes of maw Muang and spirit mediums, the shops of pesticide and medicine sellers, as well as public health clinics, the Mae Chaem hospital, and various government and corporate agricultural extension offices. Expert interviews were semi-structured according a set of key questions and prompts developed prior to the interview process and adapted by the research team during it and lasted from one to three hours. For many of the experts interviewed, we returned several times over several months to follow up on questions and topics raised by other research activities. The expert interviews were conducted in Thai or Karen with some English translation. Wherever possible, interviews were recorded directly onto digital .mp3 audio files and through field notes, as well as through photographs.  77  The expert interviews emphasized the daily practice and knowledge of biotechnical experts in their own words and as related to health and land use issues in Mae Chaem, sources of expert knowledge and technologies needed for practice, strategies for promoting or maintaining the health of lands and children, common problems, treatments, ideas of causation, and paths of referral or recourse in case of ongoing health or land use challenges. A similar set of questions was used to guide the interviews for all experts, regardless of ‘stream’ or area of expertise. Beyond these expert interviews, I also spent time with local parents shopping for food and medicines at the local market, attending the local temple, church and clinic, learning to work with people in the fields and forests, participating in ceremonies, harvests, and agro-chemical application, and generally getting to know what different biotechnical things mean to different people in Mae Chaem. Reported practices and observed practices were compared wherever possible, and questions regarding their meaning and significance were pursued either through follow-up interviews, or less formally through in-situ discussion. This stage also involved the review of expert ‘documents’ that often act in the place of experts, or in conjunction with them. These documents included public health posters, previously collected research datasets, news articles, pesticide and crop technology advertisements, religious materials dealing with healing, health, and ecology issues, government pamphlets and brochures from clinics or agricultural stations, NGO and gray-literature reports on health and land use in Mae Chaem, and map resources. A range of archival, media, and statistical sources were collected, and translated.  78  The process of ‘following the links’ between local streams of knowledge and practice available in Mae Chaem (both now and in the past) continued throughout the fieldwork and into the following analysis and writing phases. This took place through ongoing thematic analysis of interview tapes and field notes and ongoing discussions with biotechnical experts who later became friends and colleagues. Through this process I began to develop profiles of the streams of medical or ecological knowledge identified by the communities31 as well as the major ecological and health concerns and cures associated with each. Profiles of each stream included their perceived sources, values and limitations; how they are accessed; and who or what represents them in the community. In her work in rural Mexico, Garro (1986) concludes that while there are differences between the understandings of biotechnical experts (curers) and patients regarding medical knowledge, the knowledge of medical streams is generally shared between expert and non-expert. In Mae Chaem as well, knowledge of parents and farmers regarding particular traditions of land use and child health practice was generally consistent with the knowledge of experts affiliated with those same traditions. My initial understandings of these biotechnical streams were first tested through discussion and refinement with the help of my three person research team, and then through subsequent group interviews conducted with parents and farmers in the district centre and in Mae Hae Tai (discussed below).  3.5.2  Group Interviews Once we had developed a general understanding of the kinds of knowledge and  expertise available to parents and farmers through the various biotechnical experts  79  currently practicing in the valley, we then began the process of understanding local histories of change. This process initially involved gendered intergenerational focus groups that provided broad local histories of health and land use change for the lowland district centre and the upland community of Mae Hae Tai. The focus group interviews developed locally based chronologies of change in the uplands and lowlands, and to refine and add to the list of biotechnical expertise as reported by parents and farmers. With the help of my co-researchers, we conducted one set (one with men, one with women) of small group interviews in each community. In December 2002 and January 2003, the four group interviews (two in Mae Chaem, two in Mae Hae Tai), each involving six community members, were conducted. These involved six people of common gender and representing a range of ages from elder in their seventies to younger people in their twenties. These group interviews allowed for the development of a general idea of ecological and health concerns, services and ideas current in the communities since the 1950’s. Discussions were organized around a loose and open ended structure in order to allow, as much as possible, for community defined concerns and relationships to emerge. They were recorded through notes and flip-charts in order to minimize the intrusion of other recording technologies into the interview context. These interviews took place in the home of one of the participants. Food and drinks were served during the focus groups in order to facilitate a more fun and less formal dynamic. Large pieces of flip chart paper were used to record and focus discussions. These were labelled in Thai with smaller English labels added during the interviews. The group interviews lasted approximately six hours (one full day). The crossgenerational and gender specific nature of the interviews allowed distinctly gendered  80  concerns to be identified and traced through the interview process. Interviews involved developing community-based timelines of land use and health change, as well as community based lists of the various health and land use problems, experts, and technologies prevalent at different times in different communities. This process provided a set of collective community and gender specific accounts of what the most important land use and child health issues, including challenges, solutions, and resources, have been over the past 50 years. In the final stage of the group interviews participants were asked to rank the issues and actants that had been raised. While very general, and open to many interpretations, these rankings of importance offer community perspectives that show difference between communities, genders, and generations while balancing and challenging my own understandings as a visiting researcher. In both Pgha’knyaw and Muang communities women play a major role in land use, and men frequently play important roles in child rearing. Due to time constraints, only the men’s groups were able to rank land use issues and only the women’s groups were able to rank health issues. While this division of effort was mainly due to time constraints, both men’s focus groups seemed more interested in discussing farming and land use issues and women’s focus groups seemed more interested in discussing child health issues. This interpretation is consistent with other observations of social interactions in the valley, but it is recognized this interpretation may also result from implicit bias within the interview process. The group interviews provided broad chronological themes and lists of locally important actants for further investigation. As part of the focus group interviews we asked men and women of various generations to name all of the different things they might do, or kinds of help that they  81  might seek out in order to strengthen a child’s health, or to help a child if he or she was ill. Likewise, we repeated this to find out what kinds of practices or expertise people rely on in order to improve the growth of crops or resolve problems in their fields. This produced a set of practices that were attached to the various sources of expertise regarding those practices. The local histories of land use and child health change that emerged from the group interviews recognized many different traditions of biotechnical expertise in the valley and many different actors and influences. Some of these were identified as stronger in the past, in the sense that their practitioners were more popular and had more adherents, while some were identified as relative new comers to the valley and did not exist as options prior to the development of roads into the valley and the involvement of the national government and international NGOs in the valley in the 1970s. These responses were used as a foundation for grouping concerns and cures into a set of seven distinct, but related, biotechnical streams. The various identified problems, solutions, and resources were organized into themes and these served as the basis for the seven biotechnical streams discussed in this thesis. Each of the seven streams plays a part in determining the face of health and land use in Mae Chaem as it appeared and was reported during fieldwork in 2002 and 2003. The process of identifying relevant cultural streams within a community, or set of communities, is not something that Fredrik Barth (1993) discusses in any detail, nor have other anthropologists, such as Lyttleton (2000) who have applied and extended Barth’s approach in the field. In these ethnographies, cultural streams seem to emerge out of some invisible process of analysis. In my own work, I have attempted to make this process more visible and collaborative. Figure 3.3 shows the seven streams identified and  82  the experts associated with child health and agricultural land use in each. The list of streams and associated experts described below is based on information provided through focus group interviews and refined through subsequent discussion and reflection through the parent and farmer interview process. These seven streams are largely defined by the array of biotechnical expertise reported by parents and farmers as resources relied upon in times of need. Each stream is associated with a distinct kind of biotechnical experts with particular access to distinct sources of knowledge, practice, and authority. Figure 3.3: Seven Streams and Associated Experts Stream Buddhist Stream  Child Health Experts Phra (Monks), sometimes specialized in health related practices.  Muang (local, or northern Thai) Stream Spirit Stream  Maw Muang (local doctors) and Maw Tamyeh (midwives) skilled with herbs and/or ritual cures. Jiaw Song and Maa khii (spirits and spirit mediums).  Domestic Stream  Khun Paw Khun Mae (parents and elders).  Christian Stream (Karen) Commercial Stream National/NGO Stream  Ajaan Satsana (preachers) and Christian aid hospitals/staff. Pharmacists and drug sellers. Biomedical doctors, nurses, Anamai (health clinic) staff, other health representatives  Land Use Experts Phra (Monks), sometimes specialized in land related practices, as well as lay leaders of the Yorei sect. Maw Muang (local doctors) skilled in land related practices. Irrigation societies (Muang Fai) and local elders skilled in making offerings to various land and water spirits. Khun Paw Khun Mae (parents and elders) and Phuu Ruu (knowledgeable farmers). Ajaan Satsana (preachers) and Christian NGOs and aid groups. Pesticide sellers, agrocorporate extension staff. Kaset Amphur (government agricultural extension agents), NGO staff (CARE Thailand, etc.) and research scientists.  Even with these efforts, the splitting of streams from the complexities of life is a messy business. While distinguishing between the streams based on the practitioners who represent them is a useful and locally relevant way of understanding biotechnical  83  complexity in Mae Chaem, the lines between streams are not always so neat. Some biotechnical experts blur the lines between streams. Maw muang sometimes work under the sponsorship of the Mae Chaem hospital, and Buddhist monks sometimes recommend pharmaceutical medicines as well as herbs and ritual cures. Overall, the main challenge in identifying streams was not a lack of diversity, but a lack of similarity in the ways people approach biotechnical problems in the valley. In the effort to maintain the number of streams at a manageable, but still ethnographically reflective number, I have ‘lumped’ some together where perhaps they should not be. I found the following particularly painful to lump together: (1) maw muang with maw tamyeh, (2) local pesticide and drug sellers with larger and often transnational health care and agricultural corporations, and (3) the diverse NGO and state interests involved in national health care and national agricultural extension. The relationships within these three streams are particularly heterogeneous, as reflected in their respective chapters. Hopefully what I have sacrificed by ‘lumping’ is more than made up for by increased clarity. While counting the available streams is important for analytic purposes, it should also be noted that this provides only an impoverished view of the actual diversity of local biotechnical worlds. In fact, Mae Chaem is full of stream mixing and complex manoeuvrings that results in connections between local actors and larger cultural systems that are both flexible and partial (Strathern 1991). Through local choices, streams are combined by parents, farmers, and practitioners into an almost infinite variety of hybrid biotechnical worlds filled with creative combinations of pesticides and herbal medicines, spirits and heart rate monitors, prayers and development strategies. It is at this level of  84  diversity that farmers and parents enact and embody everyday practices and knowledge of biotechnology. Taken together, the biotechnical streams of Mae Chaem inscribe and define the valley’s ethnoscape in much the same way that the valley’s geoscape is marked, cut, divided, and linked by the life supporting network of creeks, rivers, streams and irrigation canals that flow through its hills, villages and fields. Southeast Asian civilizations have risen and fallen according to their ability to manage, control and regulate the flow of both water and culture (Geertz 1963, Lansing 1991). The health of both rice and people is as dependent upon streams of biotechnical practice as it is upon flows of water. Where there is a useful and reliable stream, one that flows clear and nourishing and does not prove poisonous or polluted, then fields of rice can be planted and villages can be sustained. Likewise, in order to thrive, both fields and families also need a dependable flow of biotechnical knowledge enacted through the life-protecting, restoring and increasing practices of parents and farmers. And just as watercourses settle into both natural depressions and cut trenches, the particular actor networks through which biotechnical knowledge, authority and expertise flow also become more entrenched over time. For farmers and parents, these cultural streams and actor-networks constitute possible resources of expert advice, technology, and assistance. Each offers different ways of understanding and various practices for dealing with the uncertainty, adversity, and joy of being a parent and making a life in rural northern Thailand.  85  3.5.3  Parent Farmer Histories While the group interviews were designed to provide a broad understanding of the  distinct histories of land use and health change recognized in the two focal communities, the second, much larger set of interviews, were conducted with individuals who had been, or are presently, parents and farmers. The interviews were conducted with mothers and fathers who were also farmers in the valley and each parent and farmer interview represents a different household. These histories, casting back 50 years, were developed primarily in Pgha’knyaw community communities in the uplands, and the lowland Northern Thai (Muang) district centre of Amphur Mae Chaem. Participants for the individual parent-farmer interviews were selected based on a model of the valley’s population designed to be representative of ethnicity (Thai Muang, Pgha’knyaw, and Hmong) and gender. Efforts were also made to ensure that the sample reflected the distribution of religious beliefs (Buddhist, Christian, and Anamist) in the valley as a whole. The basic demographic data was based on population statistics for 2002 obtained from the district government offices for the Mae Chaem valley as a whole. Because the total Hmong population of the valley is small (less that 10%) one Hmong mother and one Hmong father were interviewed in each of the three age groups used. All categories used (religion, age, ethnicity, and religion) are somewhat malleable in Mae Chaem so self-definition was used to identify all seventy-eight interview participants. Distribution of the sample is illustrated in Figure 3.4 below:  86  Figure 3.4: Distribution of Parent Farmer Interviews  Age 18-29 (20% of population) Age 30-45 (21.5% of population) Age 45+ (19.6% of population)  Karen Male 6 total (3 Ch, 3 Bu) 6 total (3 Ch, 3 Bu) 6 total (1 An, 3 Ch, 2 Bu)  Karen Female 6 total (3 Ch, 3 Bu) 6 total (3 Ch, 3 Bu) 6 total (1 An, 3 Ch, 2 Bu)  Thai Male  Thai Female  Hmong Male  Hmong Female  6 total (6 Bu)  6 total (6 Bu)  1  1  6 total (6 Bu)  6 total (6 Bu)  1  1  6 total (1 An, 5 Bu)  6 total (1 An, 5 Bu)  1  1  Total Parent Farmer Interviews=78 Ch=Christian Bu=Buddhist An=Animist (Naptu Pii) Parent farmer interviews were guided by a semi-structured interview format intended to document the self reported (first hand) memories of parent farmers regarding their own experiences of child health and agricultural land use (see appendix A). These recollections of child health and land use issues were recorded as a kind of seasonal round for consecutive years beginning just prior to the birth of the person’s first (oldest) child and continuing until the child was six years of age. For each year of child health memories recorded, the parent was also asked to recall their land practices in that year including what was grown, what challenges were encountered, and how those challenges were dealt with. Where opportunity allowed, a second child health history (usually for the youngest child in the family) and concurrent land use history were also recorded following the same interview format. Where possible, interviews took place in the respondent’s home and with a single parent and farmer as respondent. In several cases, the other parent, or another friend or relative was also present, or joined the interview mid-way through. Where this occurred, the other parent was invited to listen and often  87  provided input, but the primary respondent remained the focus of the interview. None of the respondents were spouses and so the seventy eight interviews represent discreet households and discreet child health and land-use narratives. Parents and farmers were asked to recall the techniques they used to help strengthen or promote the health of their lands and their children, problems and illnesses encountered, ideas of causation, solutions sought, and who they relied on for help or expertise in order to solve biotechnical challenges. The interviews were designed to provide linked chronologies of local child health/illness narratives and land use practices reported by a sample of parents and farmers that was broadly representative of the population of the valley. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with men and women who are, or have been, the parents (or primary care givers) of young children (0-6 years) over the past 50 years, and who were also farmers. Basic birth, genealogical, and educational histories were taken and primary care givers and land users were encouraged to speak broadly on what their concerns were regarding their children’s health or regarding the conditions of their fields at particular points in time. These narratives frequently include what illness or land use challenges occurred, what biotechnical practices and treatment patterns were pursued in response, as well as ideas regarding the particular sources of child illnesses or land use problems, potential dangers (including nutrition, accidents and infection). With regards to land use, narratives also included what specific land management practices were followed (crops grown, growth rituals performed, length of fallow, use of fertilizers, etc.), what ecological events or challenges occurred or caused concern (such as insect problems, droughts, crop disease, or low prices), what the farmer’s interventions or responses were (use of pesticides, temple  88  offerings made, planting trees, cash-crops planted, etc.), including what biotechnical experts may have been involved. Parents of multiple children provide separate narratives for each child, but due to the average length of the interviews, no more than two children’s narratives (generally the youngest and oldest) were collected from any one participant. Each illness narrative can be connected to a single identifiable care-giver (or set of care-givers) and to an identified period of time. These can then be compared across individuals and within the narratives of a single individual. With repetition, this strategy has provided a large set of chronologically ordered, and individually differentiated profiles of child health concerns and practices dating back 50 years and derived from a sample of individuals that is broadly representative of the valley as a whole. Peter Kunstadter (1986), in his study mentioned in chapter two, follows a somewhat similar method in research associated with a study on demographic change and infant mortality conducted between 1981 and 1984 in Mae Sariang and Mae La Noi districts in the Mae Hong Son valley adjacent to, and immediately to the west of, the Mae Chaem valley. Kunstadter’s work encountered a similar paucity of archival documents as my own work and so relied upon remembered oral reports going back more than fifty years. Kunstadter recognized that due to the area’s isolation and because of the variety of non-biomedical health strategies resulting in relatively few people accessing nationally documented sources of health care, there was an almost total absence of detailed and reliable historical documents regarding morbidity and mortality for the area. Considering this, Kunstadter chose to work with local accounts of health and mortality (memories and narratives) to understand past health challenges, practices, and causes of death.  89  Kunstater’s sample was far more extensive than my own and involved, at its core, an extensive questionnaire survey covering more than 17,000 people in more than forty villages and towns in the valley bottom (Thai, Karen), mid elevations (Karen and Lua) and hill tops (Hmong). This survey involved collecting information on the rate and cause of death occurring in the various communities within the previous twelve months. In order to add historical depth to his data, Kunstadter “relied on the memories of informants going back fifty years” (p. 132) through the collection of ‘reproductive histories’ from ever-married women. These included accounts of just over 15,000 births and 2,600 deaths for children born to the women who participated. In these interviews Kunstadter and his co-researchers asked women to remember back more than fifty years to recall child health events (births and deaths) ranging from prior to 1930 through to the early 1980’s. Morbidity data was developed through two sources: a morbidity survey conducted in 1984 with four communities asking participants to recall any illnesses in the household in the previous seven days, and a review of biomedical diagnoses from patient records at a local hospital. Data on both child morbidity and mortality developed through the parent-farmer interviews in Mae Chaem are broadly consistent with Kunstadter’s findings for Mae Hong Son (see chapter three), despite the much smaller sample and more intensive interview methods followed in Mae Chaem. Kunstadter also found that data on causes of morbidity for particular ethnic communities developed through seven-day recall surveys and reviews of hospital records generally echoed the causes of mortality reported in the long term reproductive histories of parents.  90  While Kunstadter recognized the challenges inherent in asking people to remember health information occurring more than five decades in the past, he concluded that the remembered accounts were generally reliable and did provide useful information on mortality trends. Kunstadter states: Questionnaires rely on respondents’ memories…the limitations [here] are particularly important because we have relied on the memories of informants going back as much as 50 years…It is conventionally assumed that the completeness of memory declines with the length of time from the event in question, and that births of children who were stillborn or died at a very young age are forgotten more easily than the births and deaths of children who lived to … old age or which happened recently. Our experience, both in interviewing and in analysing the results, suggests that these were not important limitations…(1986:132). Kunstadter’s conclusion is based on his observation that trends reported in the reproductive histories were generally consistent with known patterns, and that the reproductive histories seemed to be generally complete (except for those provided by very elderly and ill women) based on supplementary and supporting information from other relatives. While it is very difficult to prove accuracy of oral histories in the absence of documentary evidence, I side with Kunstadter in that the general validity of oral historical research as more than narrative can be maintained. The psychological and anthropological literature on memory and the potential flexibility and fallibility of human recall is voluminous (see Middleton and Brown 2005). Remembering and forgetting takes place inside the brain, but also takes place through social processes of language and interaction, as well as the commemorative nature of the environment around us. Keith Basso (1996) notes the role of landscape and language in remembering and teaching, and many others have looked at the various sites of memory,  91  be they museums or battlefields, that help shape our personal cognitive worlds, and inform our notions of the past In my own work, through reliance on consistent methods, repetition across individuals, and focus on first-hand accounts of personally significant events, I have tried to elicit and document the memories of parents and farmers in ways that say something about the past as well as about how people remember the past. With Kundstadter, I argue that the historical memories of parents and farmers can be relied upon as generally accurate accounts of the past, as well as narrative indications of the present. Conventional understandings of memory recognize the existence of many different kinds of memory, and different forms of memory have different qualities. Some forms are relatively durable, while others are much more ephemeral. In a work on the reliability of recall over long periods of time within survey methods, Mathiowetz (2000) suggests that the emotional salience of a question can be of greater importance than length of recall, “it is not the length of the recall period, but rather the nature of the question which impacts data quality” (Mathiowetz 2000: 6). Other efforts to test the long term reliability and validity of first person biographical recall (Hoffman and Hoffman 1996) have found that while the precision of memory for things like dates or specific details is highly variable, the general recall of first-person historical events can be highly stable over long periods of time and can serve as a foundation for understanding the past even in the absence of written documents. Ethnographic work on memory such as Cole (2001 and 2006) and Kleinman et al. (1997) tends to focus on the social, contextual, and embodied nature of memory as a felt recollection of simultaneously personal and historical event. While  92  memory biases may either enhance or impair an individual’s recall of a particular event, the social remembering of the past is always done within present contexts. In northern Thailand, some forms of local memory, notably the memorization of Buddhist scripture and magical formulae (kata) by Buddhist monks and maw Muang, make use of formal training, ritualized protocol, and standardized mnemonic devices to facilitate recall of complex and abstract passages. As influenced by Buddhist precepts, idle gossip and telling of falsehoods is discouraged, but autobiographical remembering of problems encountered and practices engaged, as a parent or farmer, is generally not subject to formal or ritualized protocols of remembrance. Instead, stories of child illness and land use challenge are told informally by parents and farmers in the valley, talked about while sitting on the floor of one’s house while visiting over water or whisky, or on the street or at the market in commenting on the events and challenges of the day. While not formally ritualized, the kinds of social remembering of one’s own experiences and practices asked of parent and farmer interview participants are quite common in the valley. The sites of this kind of memory are the fields and homes of Mae Chaem. The respect accorded to elders in northern Thailand is pronounced, and their memory, particularly as it relates to their own experiences, tends to be highly valued. Older or more experienced parents and farmers, in their role as experts within the domestic stream, often recount their own experiences of farming or parenting when asked for advice by younger parents and farmers, and it is common for farmers visiting at market or elsewhere to discuss the best crops to be grown, or compare the current price of rice, or of a day of labour, to the past.  93  Within these accounts, the individual parent or farmer is the primary authority regarding her or his own actions and experiences. While it goes somewhat against the grain of some current psychological approaches that emphasize the malleability and fallibility of human memory, I contend that an individuals' recall of their own first-person child health and land use histories can be approached as being accurate in terms of practices remembered and issues faced, and is of key relevance because retrospective experience and remembering is the primary form of history used at the local level of navigating biotechnical choice. I have not relied upon participants to remember specific dates, and use only a general sense of temporal accuracy (to the decade) in my analysis. In the parent and farmer interviews, the reliability of first-hand memory in Mae Chaem was reinforced by the mnemonic device of eliciting recollection of child health and land use experiences concurrently, by following a consistent chronological order in eliciting information, and by linking both child health and land use recollections to a concrete and personally salient temporal benchmark in the form of the birth of one’s first child. In interviews, parents and farmers frequently referenced child health challenges to what they were doing in the fields that year. By linking recollection of child health and land use within the same interview context, I contend that the reliability of both is reinforced. Another factor that reinforces the reliability of parent-farmer recall in my work is the focus on particular practices or actions. The interviews were designed to document health or land use practices that involved reliance on expert others. In some cases this involved recollection of trips to the local clinic or hospital, in others it involved recollection of visits to spirit mediums, or to request help from elders or relatives. Where parents or farmers recalled child health or land use concerns and relied upon themselves  94  (tam eng) then this was recorded as reliance on the domestic stream. Finally, because parents and farmers were encouraged to recount child health and land use concerns and practices in their own words, personally salient illness categories, such as khii yeh32 (crying too much) were used to record personal accounts. As show in chapter 14, a small set of general illness categories were shared by parents and farmers in Mae Chaem. In conducting these interviews, my intention has been to develop a matrix of local histories of ecology, health, and change, that can provide the necessary longitudinal time depth to see patterns in the connections between local histories of land, health, and knowledge. For my own work, while patient records from the Mae Chaem hospital would have been useful in providing a partial account of child illness and health practices in the valley since the late 1960’s, these kinds of records were not accessible at the time of research. Even if these records had been available, it is likely that they would have shed very little light on the majority of child health challenges and practices as most of these occur and are dealt with outside the stream of national biomedical concern and surveillance, and would have been conditioned by the various scientific, bureaucratic, and personal biases that went into their making. Even where archival records of public health in Thailand are available, they are frequently considered to be unreliable. McGuire (2002), in an assessment of available Thai public health data, finds data regarding child and infant health to be particularly unreliable. He quotes from a 1981 report by the Thai Ministry of Public Health that, “deaths are highly underreported in the provincial vital registration system, and the proportion of underreporting is highest for infant and child deaths. This makes vital registration data generally useless” (MoPH 1981:19).  95  While documentary and archival sources for Mae Chaem proved difficult to access, the oral history data does illustrate parents’ and farmers’ own recollections of child health and land use concerns. It is based on these recollections, not on documents in some archive, that parents and farmers understand the past and make decisions regarding the future. In common with many other anthropologists, I understand memory as a subjective medium and, undoubtedly, narratives from Mae Chaem reflect current remembrances of past events, understood and reconstructed according to present needs and desires, and according to social conventions of narration and plot making (Good 1994, Mattingly 1998, Mattingly and Garro 2000). Remembering is a social, creative and constructive process: As persons talk about their experiences, past events are reconstructed in a manner congruent with current understandings; the present is explained with reference to the reconstruction of the past; and both are used to generate expectations of the future. In response to a disruptive life event like illness, the reconstruction of the past in accounting for an illness, and dealing with the illness in the present and future, are often closely connected. (Garro 2000: 70). With this recognition, I would also argue, as Kunstadter does, that through careful collection and analysis of recollections, accurate historical understandings are also possible. As in Kunstadter’s work, I found a high degree of internal consistency between the narratives of parents and farmers in Mae Chaem, and the durability and accuracy of recalled autobiographical information that is emotionally salient is generally supported (Mathiowetz 2000, Conway 1995). The likelihood of accuracy in the oral histories was also enhanced by soliciting concurrent child health and land use histories. It was common for participants to check their recollections in one domain against recollections in the other as part of the interview process. I would argue that, taken together, the recollections of parents and farmers not only provide the most relevant information upon which to  96  understand histories of local agency, but also provide a reasonably sturdy scaffolding of local remembrances of ecological and health change. This is particularly true as the emotional immediacy of both child health and land use concerns lend themselves to later remembrance. Through the composite of multiple personal histories, connections can be traced upwards into the broader national, international, and global arenas in which they interact, and also downwards, through the layers of cultural and personal meaning within which, for local actors, they are embedded.  3.5.4  Analysis of Streams and Narratives Based on the extensive child health and land use narratives provided by parents in  communities across the valley’s three ethnic and language groups (Thai, Pgha’knyaw, and Hmong), I have tried to trace local land use and child health experiences and choices (including gender and ethnicity) using both qualitative and quantitative analysis. I have tried to combine a mapping of actor-network relations (in this case through biotechnical streams) with a temporal mapping of child health and land use strategies reported over time by parent-farmers.  Local understandings of illness causation (epidemiology) often have little relation to the actual health practices sought out (Young and Garro 1993). As Davis notes regarding his work in northern Thailand, “the powers which are thought to influence people’s well-being form a hotchpotch of theories and concepts which are but poorly integrated into a coherent system” (1984: 73). People in Mae Chaem tend to be extremely flexible and partial in choosing their biotechnical streams, partly because the streams themselves are offering up contradictory definitions of illness and disease, as well as  97  imperfect strategies for addressing them. At least in my own work, mapping the relations between local recollections and the available traditions of medicine and ecology seems to provide a useful strategy for developing a nuanced understanding of how externally driven ‘development’ and globalization efforts have been turned by local agents into the experience and practice of child health and land use in the fields, communities, and homes of Mae Chaem parent-farmers over the past fifty years. Fieldwork in Mae Chaem left me with accumulations of two main types of data: data provided by biotechnical experts in the valley, and data provided by parents and farmers. In analyzing the data provided by biotechnical experts my emphasis has been on a thematic analysis of issues and topics raised through interviews, and analysis of the data in terms of actor-networks and the kinds of relationships that seem to exist between parent-farmers, local experts, and larger systems of knowledge, ecology, and technology. Data from the parent-farmer interviews, including extensive notes detailing personal histories of child health and land use, were reviewed, categorized within a simple database, and analyzed in terms of dominant themes. A portion of the parent-farmer interviews (the thirty six conducted with Muang participants) were also analyzed through simple quantitative techniques. The quantitative analysis provides a composite picture of the change in Mae Chaem lowland over the fifty year period. As this analysis was based on individual recall of events, and given the small size of the sample, it is suggestive but not necessarily indicative of actual change. Given the composition and size of the sample, the analysis and resulting figures do not allow for generalizations from the sample to the community as a whole. Nonetheless, the results are interesting, and I think provide an alternative way of considering the historical  98  perspectives provided through the parent-farmer narratives. Within this analysis the Muang parent-farmer narratives were first grouped by decade. Accounts of child health actions, including curative and protective actions, were categorized according to the biotechnical stream that they relied upon. As presented in chapter 14, this provides a picture of how Muang parent-farmers have moved between the streams in different decades. Accounts of child health cures and attempted cures were in all cases targeted towards resolving particular child health concerns. These concerns were documented using the parent-farmers own recalled understanding of what he or she thought the concern was and was caused by at the time of the child’s illness. For analysis, each account was categorized into several broad indigenous illness categories and considered over the fifty year period in terms of changing Muang child health concerns and definitions (see table 14.13). Reported child health concerns were also considered in terms of the average number, or frequency, of child health concerns reported per year by parent-farmers over the fifty year period of the study. The frequency of reported child health concerns considers the total number of concerns reported within the context of the total number of child health and land use years collected in a given decade. Finally, documentation of concurrent land use and child health histories also allows comparison of the frequency of child health concerns reported by Muang parent-farmers engaged in different kinds of land use practices. Chapter fifteen considers the frequency of reported child health concerns within the context of pesticide and agro-chemical use by Muang parent-farmers in the vicinity of the Mae Chaem district centre.  99  Validity was checked through a community-based process whereby I returned to Mae Chaem after the preliminary analysis was complete to present the early findings, discuss the results, and solicit local interpretations of them. This final analytic stage was intended to subject my early analysis and results to local scrutiny in order to balance and challenge my understandings with the possibility of alternative local perspectives. The strategy of returning to a community for local review of preliminary analysis was employed successfully by Scott (1985) in rural Malaysia, and is further explored in Young et al. (1996). Set in the far more positivist light of ‘community verification’, it is also a common practice beyond the domain of ethnography. In subjecting my preliminary analysis of child health and land use narratives to the review and interpretation of select community members, I have tried to open my research to a more participatory and community based critique of my research, and of what it says. This has both bolstered and challenged my understandings of local medical and ecological streams and their meaning within the life histories of the valley. Responses and elaborations based on local review of the results have substantially influenced my interpretations and are included in the final chapters. Taken together, and coded within a database, health and land use interviews provide a diverse, but impersonal, matrix for tracing local memories of ecological and health changes through a chronological framework that includes numerous actors and multiple streams. This matrix allows reflection on historical changes in people’s health and land use knowledge and practice over a significant enough time depth to discern patterns and make comparisons. Reported shifts in child health and ecological concerns and practices can be traced and provide a basis for future comparisons.  100  Beyond the significant challenge of recording and presenting narratives of how parent’s child health and land use choices have changed over time, I have also tried to understand underlying reasons of why they have changed. Why are particular streams of health and ecological knowledge/practice adopted, accommodated, ignored, or resisted by particular people at particular times and in particular places? It is at this level of questioning that the temporal connections provided by the matrix have most required interpretation through an ethnographic lens refined through the daily wear and tear of dialogic and productive fieldwork experience. It is here that analytic tools are balanced against personal experiences of suffering and illness and the accumulated weight of personal, lived, and qualitative relationships, interactions, and understandings within the Mae Chaem valley. It is also here that the ethnographic insights developed through attempting to describe and articulate how various medical and ecological streams available are understood can be traced back into the details of individual experience and narrative, as well as forward through local social relationships and into more global levels of national and international scientific and bureaucratic policy and interaction.  101  Chapter 4:  Ethnographic Contexts 4.0  Ethnographic Contexts This chapter places Mae Chaem within the local, regional, national, and  international contexts within which my fieldwork was conducted. In describing the contexts of my work I move generally from the local scale towards more national and international levels. I begin by introducing the Mae Chaem valley, then try to place Mae Chaem within the Thai nation and larger contexts of global connection and historical, as well as, cultural transformation. I draw on various sources to outline the ethnography, geography, history, and economy of the local, regional and national contexts of field work. The chapter concludes with a reflexive consideration of my own position as a farang anthropologist living with my family in contemporary Mae Chaem, and as part of a larger transnational flow of tourism, research, and foreign influence in the valley.  4.1  The Road to Mae Chaem Mae Chaem is a small and remote mountain valley district in northern Thailand.  The valley consists of an encircling mass of forested mountain tops whose slopes are dotted with the shifting swidden fields and small villages of Pgha’knyaw (Skaw Karen) and occasionally Hmong upland minority communities. In between the mountains and slopes, the valley floor is carpeted with permanent irrigated rice fields centred around khon Muang (northern Thai) villages and the more densely populated neighbourhoods of the district centre: Amphur Mae Chaem. The tallest of the surrounding mountains, Doi  102  Inthanon, is named after the last independent monarch of Lanna, the name of the northern kingdom before the integration, in the late 19th century, of what is now northern Thailand into what was then the Kingdom of Siam. Doi Inthanon stands between the Mae Chaem valley and the city of Chiang Mai, and is the highest peak in Thailand. It is also a national park popular with Chiang Mai based farang (foreigners) tourists and khon thai (Thai citizens) alike. At Doi Inthanon, orchid soaked cloud forests, royal temples dedicated to the current Thai monarchy of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, and a large Thai military and defence installation vie with masses of tour buses in a potent symbol of the Thai nation state. While the road to Mae Chaem passes through Doi Inthanon National Park, the tourist busses go only to the park and no further. Beyond the armed check points that guard the park entrance/exit from poachers and drug couriers, the road forms of a twisting black snake of asphalt descending the western slopes of Doi Inthanon. The steepness of the mountain road restricts Mae Chaem to motor bikes, private cars, or (my personal favourite) the bright yellow public songtaew (converted pick-up trucks) that provide the primary means of public transportation between Mae Chaem and the world. The main road into the Mae Chaem valley was first built in the early 1970’s by the Thai military as an effort to improve access to a district that was, at the time, considered to be a communist stronghold and a centre for illegal opium production. As the road descends, it slips down through a series of drops and twists that challenge even the strongest of stomachs. The cool mountain forests of Doi Inthanon turn to rocky slopes planted with young teak trees waving massive leaves, then to steep upland fields planted with mountain rice in the wet season and rows of dry feed corn in  103  the arid and windy months. The road levels and straightens somewhat as it comes to the valley bottom. Doi Inthanon, with tourist clad royal temples glinting on its sides, stands to the east, visible from almost anywhere in the valley, but also seems a world away from quiet Mae Chaem. As the road approaches town through a patchwork of irrigated rice fields, brightly coloured posters appear stapled to trees, plastered on concrete power poles, and attached to almost anywhere else that may be visible to passing motorists. The posters are glossy with big, bold Thai letters. Some show mammoth potatoes, giant cabbages, rows of perfect onions, or overflowing cornucopias of plenty. Others display huge insects or monster caterpillars eating through sickly looking roots and leaves. Still others depict shining swords, ferocious tigers, warriors and exploding rockets. Each one cries out the advantages of the latest agricultural products: fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and hormones designed to cure the ills of today’s cash crops and make both fields and profits grow. Like advertisements all over the world, most of the writing is brief and bold. Slogans in Thai tell of rich productivity and high yields alongside proclamations of “New Formula!”, “Safe”, and “No Smell”. Some of the posters have corporate logos with English names that sound familiar, even to those from half a world away: Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, Monsanto. All are present in the biotechnical parade of the Mae Chaem valley. Smaller, less colourful signs, in Thai only, advertise easy access to credit and loans available to cash strapped farmers. Canadian anthropologists and academics are obviously not the intended audience of these rural Thai advertisements. They are intended for the eyes (and hearts and minds) of Mae Chaem farmers, and especially those who see production and marketing of  104  agricultural cash crops as a path towards the achievement of wealth and success. They are intended to represent particular chemicals, brands and commodities, as well as particular corporations, but they also advocate particular conceptions of the world, and of how nature, technology, money, health and disease are related within it. Posters advertise biotechnical ontologies at the same time as they advertise biotechnical commodities. Such market oriented representations are only the first and most obvious indication of the agricultural traditions and changes that run through life in Mae Chaem. Others, both locally and globally derived, are represented by traditional doctors, Buddhist monks, local spirit mediums, village elders or grandparents, and NGO or government extension agents, though the advertising of these traditions is less obvious. Each stream has its own experts and advocates that proclaim its own brand of biotechnical efficacy, each seeking to attract the allegiance of Mae Chaem parents and farmers. On the edge of town the road passes several large compounds where pesticides, fertilizers, and agricultural equipment is stacked for sale. More brightly coloured signs indicate the prices of the products and tell farmers of prizes, including shirts, televisions, and vehicles, that can be one if they purchase enough of a particular chemical. Large vehicles scales are nearby, ready to weigh loads of cabbage and other cash crops before they leave the valley for sale and then export to international and domestic Thai markets. Smaller signs indicate that the Mae Chaem offices of several large multinational agricultural companies are nearby, the local purchasing and extension office of FritoLays among them. Where the road levels out and stretches towards the banks of the Mae Chaem river33, the houses and small shops that make up Amphur Mae Chaem, the district centre,  105  begin to appear and increase in number. One and two story teak and concrete houses and shops stretch along the road and multiply as you approach the centre of town. Speeding by in the back of a songtaew pick-up, they first give the impression that the district centre is much larger than it is. As I got to know the community better, I realized that this illusion of size is a deception: the rice fields, unseen from the road, start again immediately after the first or second row of houses. Closer to the centre of town, a large sign indicates that off to the left, hidden by more shops and houses, sits the Mae Chaem hospital. In the same direction, a brilliant and unmistakeable arched entryway, complete with sculpted mythical animals and glistening coloured glass mosaic, indicates the presence of a large Buddhist temple. Behind it, an immense transmission tower reaches up into the sky to send television, radio and cellular signals hurtling towards household TVs and ubiquitous personal cell phones all over the valley until their invisible waves are swallowed up by the surrounding green of hills and mountains. The epicentre of town is marked by a busy intersection where the east-west running Doi Inthanon road crosses the Mae Chaem River and another north-south running road splits up and down the valley, sending little motorbikes and aging pick-up trucks in all directions. A few noodle stalls and fruit sellers spill out from the main market on the far side of the intersection. A drug store, convenience store and several restaurants stretch out on either side. The busiest time of day is in the early morning when the mountain mists still hang low around the buildings and the market is in full swing with local residents joined by villagers from the hills, many of them, especially women, wearing the distinct woven or embroidered clothing of Hmong or Pgha’knyaw (Karen) minorities. As the afternoon moves on, the blazing sun bakes the surrounding  106  asphalt and concrete sending up waves of heat that ache for the cool return of monsoon rains. Wealthy store owners move inside to their air conditioned interiors while less protected pedestrians keep close to the shade of buildings and nearby trees. The local branch of the Thai Farmer’s Bank stands nearby, complete with ATM: a tall and incongruous structure of mirrored glass with broad white washed steps. The whole scene is watched over by a small spirit house tucked away on one side of the intersection, and, at its centre, a large and brightly coloured billboard picture of the Thai monarch, King Bhum