MPI Doctoral Student Floramante S.J. Ponce Receives EASA Award

November 25, 2020

Floramante S.J. Ponce is this year’s winner of the annual award granted by the Anthropology of Food Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) for the best paper by a postgraduate student. Ponce is a member of the research group “Electric Statemaking in the Greater Mekong Subregion” headed by Kirsten W. Endres in the Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’.

Floramante S.J. Ponce received the award for his paper titled “‘Eating (With) Us’: Commensalism, Parasitism, and Transformations in Food Consumption in a Lao Hydropower Resettlement”. The paper is based on 14 months of fieldwork in north-western Laos among villagers who were relocated following the construction of a hydroelectric dam. “Because of the dam, they lost their homes, they lost their social networks, and they lost their means of sustenance”, Ponce explains. In his analysis of the effects of these radical changes in their life circumstances, Ponce focused primarily on the dietary transformation that came along with the forced resettlement. “The villagers previously relied on fishing and small-scale farming to feed themselves. But now they live far away from their original settlements and this is no longer possible.” Consequently, their nourishment has become poorer and they struggle with the threat of hunger. This is exacerbated by the loss of the community that served as a support network in times of need.

The environmental changes brought by the dam have far-reaching consequences, including an increase in social inequality. For the construction project has winners as well as losers: “There are people who found work due to the construction project, which has enabled them to live a life that is not possible for many of the other resettled Laotians”, Ponce notes. “What the long-term effects on the region will be, remains to be seen.”

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