The existence of Laos today is taken for granted. But the crystallization of a Lao national idea and ultimate independence for the country was a long and uncertain process. This book examines the process through which Laos came into existence under French colonial rule through to the end of World War II. Rather than assuming that the Laos we see today was an historical given, the book looks at how Laos' position at the intersection of two conflicting spatial layouts of 'Thailand' and 'Indochina' made its national form a particularly contested process.This, however, is not an analysis of nation-building from the perspective of administrative and political structures. Rather, the book charts the emergence of a notion of a specifically Lao cultural identity that served to buttress Laos as a separate 'Lao space', both in relation to Siam/Thailand and within French Indochina. Based on an impressive variety of primary sources, many of them never before used in studies of Lao nationalism, this book makes a significant contribution to Lao historical studies and to the study of nation-building in Southeast Asia.
Soren Ivarsson is Associate Professor in History at the University of Copenhagen. He works on the history of Thailand and Laos with a particular focus on nationalism and historiography.
Preface; Abbreviations; Thai and Lao Language Conventions; Introduction; 1. The Colonial Encounter; 2. Thai Discourses on History and Race; 3. Roads, History, Religion and Language, 1893-1940; 4. The Campaign for a National 'Re-awakening', 1941-1945; 5. Setting Laos Free from the French; Bibliography; Index