The Mekong River has undergone vast infrastructural changes in recent years, including the construction of dams across its main stream. These projects, along with the introduction of new fish species, changing political fortunes, and international migrant labor, have all made a profound impact upon the lives of those residing on the great river. It also impacts how they dream. In Mekong Dreaming, Andrew Alan Johnson explores the changing relationship between the river and the residents of Ban Beuk, a village on the Thailand-Laos border, by focusing on the effect that construction has had on human and inhuman elements of the villagers' world. Johnson shows how inhabitants come to terms with the profound impact that remote, intangible, and yet powerful forces—from global markets and remote bureaucrats to ghosts, spirits, and gods—have on their livelihoods. Through dreams, migration, new religious practices, and new ways of dwelling on a changed river, inhabitants struggle to understand and affect the distant, the inassimilable, and the occult, which offer both sources of power and potential disaster.
Andrew Alan Johnson is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Ghosts of the New City: Spirits, Urbanity, and the Ruins of Progress in Chiang Mai.