CSEAS Lecture: Jonathan Padwe

Jonathan Padwe

Department of Anthropology, University of Hawaii at Manoa

“ZZZZomia: Mosquitoes, Malaria, and the Upland/Lowland Divide on Mainland Southeast Asia”

Friday, April 5, noon

Peters Campus Life Building 100 and online


The distinction between upland and lowland society in mainland Southeast Asia is an enduring social divide that has long provoked scholars of the region. In the lowlands, peasant production of "paddy" rice in inundated fields has given rise to stratified societies practicing so-called world religions. In contrast the uplands are home to myriad small groups of hill-rice farmers whose animist religious beliefs and numerous diverse languages set them apart from their lowland neighbors. To date, discussion of these distinctions has focused on the desires of upland peoples to resist incorporation into the state, and on the ways that agriculture, ecology, and numerous cultural distinctions  differentiate them from their lowland neighbors. One factor that has not been taken into consideration is the role that resistance to malaria has played in structuring the lowland-upland divide. Most residents of the uplands receive year-round exposure to various strains of malaria, and develop acquired immunity to the disease. Most residents of the lowlands do not. Differential immunity complicates existing understandings of the historical relationship between upland and lowland societies.

Jonathan Padwe came to anthropology with a background in international development, after years working at non governmental organizations, as a community organizer and as a program officer in a private philanthropy. He entered graduate school seeking to understand why development projects so often fail to improve the lives of those whom they seek to help. Questions of equity and inequality are central to this problem, and his work today continues to investigate these issues within processes of social and environmental change. 

His research looks at the relationship between social and environmental change in the highlands of mainland Southeast Asia. This work is based on several years of fieldwork in Cambodia’s northeast highlands, along the border with Vietnam, as well as on archival research conducted at Cambodia’s National Archives and at the Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer, the French colonial archive in Aix-en-Provence. He previously worked in South America. His work there includes over three years working with foragers in eastern Paraguay, conducting research on hunting and natural resource use. Other work in South America includes field research on land reform and identity politics in Bolivia, and work in community development and as an advocate for indigenous peoples’ rights.

Hybrid meeting, registration required for zoom participation: https://niu-edu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZApceuvqz4jG9PUkEe7cdkaplMbusDszHQ8

Free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by NIU's Graduate Colloquium Program.

Dial-In Information


Friday, April 5 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

Peters Campus Life Building, 100
545 Lucinda Ave, DeKalb, IL 60115

Event Type

Lectures, Presentations and Workshops, Graduate Colloquium


Arts and Culture, Research, Academics, Diversity

Target Audience

Students, Faculty and Staff, Alumni, General Public, Prospective Students





Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Contact Name

Rachael Skog

Contact Email or Phone


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