Becoming Stateless: Historical Experience and Its Reflection on the Concept of State among the Lahu in Yunnan and Mainland Southeast Asian Massif
This paper aims to contribute to James Scott's discussion of statelessness in "Zomia" by examining the realities of political autonomy and the concepts of state and kingship of the Lahu. During the nineteenth century, "kings" appeared among the Lahu in parts of southwest Yunnan. Indeed, the Lahu enjoyed political autonomy under their own kings before these were eliminated in the process of modern state formation and border demarcation in China and Burma. Messianic movements emerged among the Lahu after they became stateless. These movements stressed the need to redeem the lost states and kings throughout the course of the Lahu's modern history. In this respect, statelessness is not a timeless, quintessential attribute of the Lahu. Rather, they only became conscious of statelessness during the modern period. What this demonstrates is that the Lahu have never been conscious anarchists who chose to avoid kings and states. They possess their own original concepts of state and kingship, even though these differ from our conventional understanding, and the main theme of their historical experience and mythical accounts centers around their search for their own state and king.
- Southeast Asian Studies
Southeast Asian Studies 2(1), 69-94, 2013