Dr. Natasha Pairaudeau’s research interests include migration, inter-ethnic relations, and the dynamics of citizenship, race and status in colonial systems. Her book Mobile Citizens: French Indians in Indochina, 1858-1954 (NIAS, 2016), addresses the making of French citizenship among French Indian migrants to Indochina. Ongoing projects includes a series of studies of transnational family life in Indochina, and a history of Indian migrant dairymen across Southeast Asia. Her study of Shan migration in the Thai-Indochinese borderlands complements a larger project concerning the exile and intrigues of Burmese Prince Myngoon.

Summary of Project:

Shifting Migrant Identities down the Generations: Kula case studies from the Thai/Indochinese borderlands

This research explores the past and present of ethnic Shan (Kula) migrants who were long-standing caravan traders along the Siamese/Lao border, and worked gem mines in the Chantaburi region of Siam. The study couples historical analysis with socio-political insights through archival research and field work interviews in Chantaburi (Thailand), Pailin (Cambodia), and one site in the Lao/Thai borderlands (to be confirmed).

The research aims to understand the historical trajectories of one of peninsular Southeast Asia’s once-vibrant migrant populations. It considers forces which allowed this group to develop a strong sense of regional belonging from the late 19th century; factors which led to subsequent weakening in its sense of self and community, through decolonisation and the violence which accompanied it; and the sense or senses of belonging taking shape in a new context of growing inter-regional movements and economic ties. Attention will be paid to divergences in political and historical trajectories at the three study sites, in particular differences in the nature and level of violence experienced. This will permit broader conclusions to be drawn about factors that create a sense of commitment to a supra-national political and social unit, and factors which mitigate against such forms of self-identity.