Relations between highlanders, migrant-settlers, and the state are often described in terms of conflict. This is informed by two assumptions: (1) the highlands and their inhabitants are characterized by cultural and ecological separation from the lowlands and (2) encounters in the highlands are characterized by a unidirectional homogenizing process. In this conversation, we propose alternative models of transformation in the Vietnamese and Thai uplands. We view the uplands as a "middle ground" of negotiation and compromise, and we describe state formation in terms of localized genesis in which the state form is reshaped as it asserts its claims on the frontier.
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