Labor migration and large-scale land enclosures are increasingly central to the story of agrarian change throughout the Global South. Nonetheless, there remain limited understandings of how recent explosions of mobile labor and new sources of smallholder capital shape and are shaped by ongoing land use and property transformations. This article reviews this gap in Southeast Asia – a region where labor and capital are highly mobile and where the expansion of industrial agriculture and forestry has been particularly rapid. We begin by synthesizing recent labor migration trends in Southeast Asia and discussing key conceptual frameworks for studying labor mobility and agrarian transformations. We then summarize shifts in land use, land control, and labor relations linked to both labor mobility and large-scale land enclosures. We conclude by highlighting two questions deserving of further study. First, how do large-scale industrial agriculture and forest concessions affect rates and patterns of labor migration out of nearby communities? Second, how do new patterns of household resource control and labor allocation from labor migration affect land use and land cover, particularly in sites dominated by large-scale commodity concessions? These questions cannot yet be answered fully though work has begun to address them both directly or indirectly. We use the existing literature to highlight directions for future research on these themes.
Authors and Publishers
Kelley, Lisa C.
Peluso, Nancy Lee
Carlson, Kimberly M.
The Mekong Land Research Forum seeks to bring research and policy a bit closer together. It does this in part by making the research more accessible and in part by helping to distill the key messages and points of debate so that information overload does not overwhelm policy makers and other advocates for progressive policy reform.