'Countering Hegemony' and 'Institutional Integration': Two Approaches to Using Tai Baan (villagers') Research for Local Knowledge Advocacy

Title'Countering Hegemony' and 'Institutional Integration': Two Approaches to Using Tai Baan (villagers') Research for Local Knowledge Advocacy
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2013
Secondary AuthorsDaniel, Lebel, Manorom
Secondary TitleGoverning the Mekong: Engaging the Politics of Knowledge
PublisherStrategic Information and Research Development Center (SIRD)
Place PublishedSelangor, Malaysia
Key themesEcology and Livelihoods, Impact Assessment

In recent years, an innovative form of grassroots research known as Tai Baan (‘villagers’ research’) has emerged in the Mekong region, which is said to give local communities greater control and ownership over the production of environmental knowledge. The application of Tai Baan research in various riparian communities in Thailand and, more recently, other Mekong countries, reflects the appeal of its guiding principles and methods and its potential to challenge how priorities in environmental research are set. In particular, Tai Baan research is said to empower those normally excluded from knowledge production and decision-making processes. This chapter comparatively examines the application and use of Tai Baan research in two distinct contexts in northeast Thailand. The first looks at emergence of Tai Baan research in a highly politicised context of conflict and local opposition to two existing dams: Pak Mun and Rasi Salai. The second context involves the adoption and application of Tai Baan research within a sustainable wetlands management project in a very different arena of knowledge politics. Drawing from the case studies, the chapter discusses some of the opportunities and challenges for implementing and building on Tai Baan research in different contexts, focusing on issues around networking, sustainability and dialogue between ‘local’ and ‘expert’ knowledge. The paper argues that Tai Baan research must be understood to be more than just a methodology to collect information. The research is a catalyst for communities to assess their needs and priorities that will inform strategies to mobilise for change. Empowering communities to participate in environmental management and decision making is a long term process that requires ongoing support through activities and exchanges that build on the research results. However, maintaining sight of Tai Baan’s broader project of political transformation so it doesn’t become another ‘participatory tool’ for impact assessments or collecting local knowledge poses significant challenges where there is limited space for civil society expression, as seen in the case of Laos.


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Regional, Thailand

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