The Khmer Lands of Vietnam: Environment, Cosmology and Sovereignty

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By Philip Taylor

  • Winner of the inaugural EuroSEAS Social Science Book Prize 2015
  • Shortlisted for the ICAS Book Prize 2015 for Best Study in the Social Sciences. From a total of 175 submitted books, 10 were long listed before 6 were short listed.

    The indigenous people of Southern Vietnam, known as the Khmer Krom, occupy territory over which Vietnam and Cambodia have competing claims. Regarded with ambivalence and suspicion by nationalists in both countries, these in-between people have their own claims on the place where they live and a unique perspective on history and sovereignty in their heavily contested homelands. To cope with wars, environmental re-engineering and nation-building, the Khmer Krom have selectively engaged with the outside world in addition to drawing upon local resources and self-help networks.

    This groundbreaking book reveals the sophisticated ecological repertoire deployed by the Khmer Krom to deal with a complex river delta, and charts their diverse adaptations to a changing environment. In addition, it provides an ethnographically grounded exposition of Khmer mythic thought that shows how the Khmer Krom position themselves within a landscape imbued with life-sustaining potential, magical sovereign power and cosmological significance. Offering a new environmental history of the Mekong River delta this book is the first to explore Southern Vietnam through the eyes of its indigenous Khmer residents.


    "...a thoughtful analysis of an important yet oft-overlooked ethnic group that inhabits the rich Mekong Delta."
    Matt Galway, The University of British Columbia


    "Philip Taylor's masterful study should do much to dispel ignorance, prejudices, and basic misconceptions about the Khmer Krom (literally, lower Khmer). "
    Philip Hirsch, University of Sydney

    "In this meticulous, absorbing  and often poignant book, Philip Taylor draws on years of fieldwork to take us among the appealing, resilient and ecologically gifted  Khmer speaking minority  in southern Vietnam. This is the first book in any language to treat these beleaguered men, and women with the sustained, sympathetic attention that they deserve."
    David Chandler

    The Khmer Lands is a truly singular work of scholarship, one that brings into sharp focus a people and place long obscured from view, allowing the reader a glimpse into both the physical and mythical environs in which the Khmer Krom live.”
    Timothy Gorman

    “This is surely the most thorough study of this region and its Khmer minority ever undertaken. It is based on a remarkable amount of fieldwork. Taylor conducted 17 fieldtrips to the region, during which he visited over 400 villages... But the real methodological achievement of this study is its systematic study of the unique ecology of this region.”
    Patrick Jory

    The Khmer Lands of Vietnam is a rich, thoughtful exploration of the culture of Khmer communities living in Vietnam. Taylor’s success lays in his patience, his linguistic skills, and his scientific knowledge.”
    Christina Firpo

    "...The Khmer Lands of Vietnam is a work that will be an important read for students, teachers and researchers of Environmental History, Anthropology, History of Southeast Asia, Buddhist Studies and Vietnam."
    William B Noseworthy

    "Khmer Lands performs a valuable corrective service. It challenges us to seek out storylines and cosmologies that lie beyond those repeatedly articulated by the state. It is a fascinating case study, and an avowedly revisionist environmental history."
    David Biggs


    Philip Taylor is Senior Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the Australian National University. He is also the author of Cham Muslims of the Mekong Delta: Place and Mobility in the Cosmopolitan Periphery.


    Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series
    Publication Year: 2014
    336 pages, 229mm x 152mm
    ISBN: 978-9971-69-778-5, Paperback

    NUS Press