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Friday Forum: Nathan Green – “Financial Landscapes of Agrarian Change in Cambodia”
February 22, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Financial Landscapes of Agrarian Change in Cambodia
W. Nathan Green
PhD Candidate, Department of Geography
Cambodia is in the midst of an agrarian transformation. Fewer Cambodians are farming, production is increasingly commodified, and processes are more mechanized. Researchers have begun to study how the fast growth within Cambodia’s microfinance industry is contributing to these changes. In this presentation, I draw upon a political ecology of debt analytic to argue that agrarian change is entangled with changing social relations of debt, the use of microfinance to fund social reproduction, and household dependence upon wage-labor remittances. To make my argument, I draw upon information gathered during 20 months of ethnographic research within a farming village in Kampot Province. I describe how social relations of debt have both contributed to agricultural changes and been re-shaped by new agricultural practices. For example, agricultural work groups reliant upon transplanting rice seedlings and plowing fields with draft animals tended to be underpinned by labor and in-kind debt relations. As farmers switch to seed broadcast techniques with high capital inputs and mechanization, debt relations have become more monetized and spatially extended. The purpose of this paper is to better understand debt in its diverse material and social forms, and how these debt relations in turn shape the geographical and ecological contours of contemporary Cambodian rice agriculture.
W. Nathan Green is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research is driven by questions about the economic, cultural, and environmental dimensions of development in Southeast Asia. In his dissertation, he uses ethnographic methods to study agro-environmental change and financial markets in rural Cambodia. Specifically he details the linkages between the global microfinance industry and the country’s land registry system in order to understand how collateralised debt has reconfigured household economic relations, agricultural practices, and people’s access to land. Nathan also studies the ways that hydropower dam projects in Laos and Cambodia transform people-environment relations. His next project will investigate the role of climate change finance in rural development and local resource governance in Cambodia.