Material Abstract: Against a background of processes of rural change that are on the brink of unfolding in the Lao PDR and triggered by capitalist expansion and agendas of regional integration, the rural population has become increasingly mobile. Studies have shown that it is primarily the young population that is involved in migration, and a considerable proportion of these young migrants is below the age of 18 and, therefore, technically of child-age. Through the theoretical lens of rural change these young migrants are depicted as actors of social change who through their involvement in migration rework their own social position but also contribute to wider processes of change. However, young people’s involvement is mostly presented as an issue of human trafficking in which the young migrants are depicted as the victims of processes of capitalist expansion. This study has broken down the binary representation of young migrants as either victims of change or agents of change. Detailed ethnographic accounts have revealed the various structuring relations shaping different forms of migration in which young Lao are involved. It has further illuminated how young villagers, as social actors, subtly negotiate the process of becoming and not becoming a young migrant, and, once at migration destination, exercise agency in the workplace, although often in a constrained manner. These constraints, it is argued, are in part produced by the indigenisation of the modern notion of childhood and global migration discourses. The institutionalisation of a modern childhood contributes to bringing the young population within state spaces, allowing the state to impose itself on this politically important segment of the population for an increasing number of years. However, young people’s involvement in migration undermines these efforts, thereby, contributing to making the political space for addressing the urgent issue of harm in migration, other than by removing minors from migration, a very narrow one.

J. Rigg (Jonathan) , R. Pain (Rachel)
ISS PhD Theses
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Huijsmans, R. (2010, October 4). Migrating Children, Households, and the Post-Socialist State: An ethnographic study. ISS PhD Theses. Retrieved from