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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Land use change in a globalised world. Exploring the relevance of the telecoupling framework in the case of banana plantation expansion in northern Laos

Cecilie Friis was a doctoral researcher at IRI THESys in the period of January 2014 to June 2017 and has then shifted into a post-doc position. Her research interests include telecouplings in human-environmental land systems, transnational land acquisition and their impact on access and claims to resources and livelihood opportunities in dynamic resource frontier regions.

Photo by: Cecilie Friis
Fig.: Cecilie Friis

Commercial pressures on land have accelerated in the past couple of decades. New links are created between places of demand and places of supply of land based product, which intensify the complexity of change processes in local landscapes and create long-distance linkages – telecouplings – across the world.

In my PhD project I focused on how these pressures on land play out in so-called frontier regions portrayed by narratives of vast natural resource abundance and low population densities. The empirical focus of my research was the rapidly changing agrarian landscapes of the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, where land for production of new cash-crops is sought by both international and domestic investors with resultant changes in land use and livelihoods. Here, local people risks losing out when vital livelihood resources are targeted, however new opportunities may also arise.

My research investigated a recent boom in banana plantations sought by small-scale Chinese investors through land leases with farmers at village level. I examined the actors involved, their interactions and relations, as well as the distal causal relations involved in facilitating the banana leases and the outcomes for a small ethnic minority community in Luang Namtha Province, Laos. Theoretically, the project explored the potential of the telecoupling framework for addressing global interconnectivity and analysing distal linkages in land use and livelihood transformations in an empirically grounded case study. My research advanced the discussions on telecoupling by showing how, when used as a heuristic device, telecoupling enables analyses that moves beyond traditional dichotomies of the global and the local, as well as the rural and the urban by directing attention to the specific processes that connects change in different places regardless of their ‘location’ in geographical and social space.

Following my PhD research I am now working as a post-doc at IRI THESys. I will build on my PhD research and strengthen both the empirical and conceptual discussion on the temporal perspective of telecoupling and frontier land and livelihood change. 

See also Cecilie's fieldwork based photo project: Through 13 lenses. Images from the field – illustrating life changes in Ban Sirimoon, Laos

Research Group: Integrative Geography 


Cecilie Friis
Photo: Anne Dombrowski


Cecilie Friis, Doctoral Researcher
Phone: +49 (030) 2093-66343
E-Mail: cecilie.friis@hu-berlin.de