Eunbi Ko is a PhD candidate in Geography at the National University of Singapore. Her research is centered around the field of land and resource governance, particularly within the resource frontiers in Cambodia. She is keen to unravel the intricate connections between politics, ecology, and the dynamic forces shaping land use. E-mail: eunbi.b.ko@gmail.com


Heterogeneous Territories in Cambodia’s Resource Frontiers

Abstract: Over the past two decades, the detrimental social and environmental consequences stemming from large-scale land investments have sparked global concerns. Against this backdrop, the notion of indigenous territory has gained increasing acceptance as a norm in global land governance, especially when addressing dispossession in contemporary resource frontiers. However, the mainstream understanding of the term falls short of adequately explaining the land governance of non-settler colonial countries. In northeast Cambodia, where state-led enclosures, primarily driven by capitalist appropriation of space, remain incomplete and intertwined with new tenure systems and locally embedded ways of land use, the uneven application and assertion of indigenous territorialities by actors at multiple scales have intensified the fragmentation of land management. Drawing on the debates regarding politically contingent dispossession, this study sheds light on the mobilization of indigenous territorialities in non-settler colonial contexts and their impact on the uneven geographies of land dispossession in contemporary resource frontiers. To accomplish this, the paper initially examines how the idea of globalized indigeneity has been navigated and manifests itself in land and resource politics in Cambodia. Then, building upon year-long political ethnographic research in the Ratanakiri province of northeast Cambodia, the paper examines the governance of indigenous territory focusing on the Indigenous Communal Land Titling (ICLT) and on the resulting emergence of fragmented, heterogeneous territory at the village level. Ultimately, this grounded account suggests that our current understanding of indigeneity and territory requires new conceptualizations. This shift aligns with the decolonial turn in knowledge production.
Keywords: heterogeneous territory, resource frontiers, indigeneity, dispossession, Cambodia