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  Summary of the

Fourth International Conference on Lao Studies

April 19-21, 2013 | University of Wisconsin-Madison | Madison, WI USA

Center for Lao Studies



The Fourth InternationalAttendees at the ICLS 4. Conference on Lao Studies (ICLS), co-hosted by the Center for Lao Studies (CLS) in San Francisco and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin took place on April 19-21, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. The Conference attracted over 280 participants worldwide, including the USA, Laos, France, Thailand (including numerous academics from Isan), Germany, Japan, China, Australia and Canada. Altogether there were 140 presenters, composing 38 unique panels with five parallel sessions. The two-day Film Festival showed over 10 films and documentaries on Lao topics, and the Center for Lao Studies and the Conference receptions highlighted Lao American talents, combined with delicious Lao food catered by the local Lao community.  

The First International Conference on Lao Studies was held at Northern Illinois University in May 2005 and co-chaired by Professor John Hartmann and Vinya Sysamouth (www.seasite.niu.edu/lao/LaoStudies/FICLS2.htm). The main objective of the Lao Studies Conferences is to provide an international forum for scholars to present and discuss various aspects of Lao studies. Topics include all ethno-linguistic groups of Laos, the Isan Lao and other ethnic Lao-Tai groups in Thailand, cross-border ethnic groups in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Burma, and Cambodia (e.g., Akha, Hmong, Khmu, Mien, Lao Phuan, Tai Lue, Tai Dam), and overseas multi-ethnic Lao groups.


Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony was held at 9am on April 19th and included welcomes from a number of Conference organizers and esteemed Lao academics: Dr. Ian Baird, Conference Co-Chair and Assistant Professor at UW-Madison and Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, Conference Co-Chair and Executive Director of the Center for Lao Studies opened the Conference and welcomed participants. Their remarks were followed by Professor Guido Podesta (Associate Dean of the Division of International Studies, UW-Madison); Mr. Prany Sananikone (Board President of CLS); Dr. Yang Dao (Former Senator from Laos); and  Dr. Carol Compton (retired, UW-Madison).
After the opening ceremony, special remarks were made by Bruce Shoemaker, on "Sombath Somphone and Recent Events in Laos." 
Keynote Address
The Keynote Speaker for this year's Conference was Professor Yves Goudineau, Ecole Francaise D'extreme-Orient, Vientiane, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prof. Goudineau opened the Conference by speaking on "The Invention of a Multiethnic Heritage in Laos," which addressed, among others, the question "What is the local or multi-ethnic cultural heritage that is supposed to be preserved in Laos?" Prof. Goudineau also chaired a panel on Heritage Tourism and participated in a round table on Ethnic Minorities in Laos. 


Panel Discussions
The Conference had a total of 38 distinct panels organized by subject, each with three to four presenters and one panel moderator. Due to the high number of presenters, five panels were scheduled concurrently, so participants could choose based on their interest on each topic. Each presenter had thirty minutes to present followed by a Q&A session. Panels began Friday after lunch and ran through Sunday morning. There were breaks with refreshments throughout the sessions, including a longer lunch break in the afternoon. The full conference program can be viewed at: https://www.laostudies.org/sites/default/files/public/4ICLS%20program%20-%20final.low_.rez_.pdf
Day 1: The first day of panel discussions ran from 1:30-6:00pm and included panels on nine different topics including: 1) Wat Pathumwararam; 2) Heritage Tourism; 3) Education; 4) Lao Literature; 5) Roundtable discussion on the Ongoing Impact of Sombath Somphone; 6) Nam Theun II and other Hydropwer Dams; 7) Agriculture and Development; 8) Culture and Change; 9) Lao History and 10) Music. 


Day 2: The second day (Saturday, April 20, 2013) full sessions began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m. The sessions included: 1) Mining; 2) Hmong History; 3) The Lao in Thailand; 4) Weaving, Pottery, and Other Handicrafts; 5) Religion; 6) Luang Prabang; 7) Rubber/Cash Crops; 8) Education for Sustainable Development in Laos; 9) Isan Cultural Maintenance; 10) Symbols, Relics, Rituals and Spirit Cults; 11) Lao Film; 12) Health; 13) Jatakas and Moral Teachings; 14) Engaging Local Communities in Biodiversity Conservation in Lao PDR; 15) Ethnic Identities; 16) Lao Writing; 17) History and Development; and 18) Syntax and Lexicon. 
There was one special panel on Saturday, entitled "Voices from Laos: Clearing Bombs, Protecting Lives," consisting of members of the Voices from Laos Speaking Tour. The panelists aim was to educate audiences about the dangers of unexploded ordnance in Laos, and what they could do to help. 


Day 3: Day three of panels (Sunday, April 21) consisted of a half-day of sessions, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. The final day of sessions included discussions on these topics: 1) Lao Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management; 2) Tourism; 3) Ethnic Minorities in Laos (round table); 4) Tai Dialects; 5) Resettlement, Agriculture and Economic Zones; 6) Migration; 7) Phonology; 8) People from Laos in America and 9) Music and Song. 
Film Festival 
The film festival was organized and chaired by Dr. S. Steve Arounsack and ran both Saturday and Sunday morning. Films this year included shorts such as "Happy Laos Film"; and mini films/documentaries such as "Roses and Red Ants: Great Men Unleash Terrible Destruction" directed by Nakhone Keodara and "Hmong New Year" produced by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC). The two feature films were the thriller-drama, "At the Horizon" by Anysay Keola and Xaisongkham Induangchanthy, who were present at the Conference to screen and discuss their film, as well as the horror film "Chanthaly" by Mattie Do. 
In addition to the panels, the Conference also provided tables for vendors and publishers to display books, handicrafts and promotional materials. TAEC and CLS were among those sharing their products and information for Conference participants. Photographer Todd Sanchioni, who photographed former Lao refugees around the country for CLS's Lao Oral History Archive (LOHA) displayed his photographs of San Francisco Bay Area interviewees, photographs taken in Laos, as well as two published works of his photographs. 
Business Meeting 
The business meeting was held on Saturday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the administrative and policies aspects of the Lao Studies Conferences, and to select a new host for the Fifth International Conference on Lao Studies, which will be held in 2016. Eleven people, known as the Business Meeting Board (BMB), were selected from the organizing committee to choose the next host. There were a total of three potential hosts and two of them gave 10-minute presentations on why their academic institutions would be suitable hosts for the next ICLS. These included Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand (www.mahidol.ac.th) Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand (www2.tu.ac.th/tueng/) and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (http://www.cornell.edu).  
Presentations followed a set of questions and procedures mandated in the ICLS Guidelines (http://laostudies.org/vinya/ICLS-Guide2007.pdf). Through a formal voting process, the BMB then chose the institution considered best able to organize the conference for 2016. The selected University to host the 5th International Conference on Lao Studies was Thammasat University. 
On Friday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m. the Center for Lao Studies hosted a special Membership Appreciation reception, to honor and thank our 2012-2013 members. Approximately 60 members attended the festivities, which included a baci ceremony, traditional Lao dances by the Lao American Women's Organization of Milwaukee, Molam and Mokhene performances, khene playing by Board Member Gregory Green, and a poetry reading by Buasawan Simmala (Voice of America) and Amy Bowers (CLS member and Study Abroad in Laos participant) of CLS's newest publication Siang Miang


The Conference Banquet was held Saturday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m., at the Lussier Family Heritage Center. The sold-out event featured Lao food catered by the Lao Buddhist Temple Association in Madison, WI, and entertainment by Natasinh, Lao Classical Dance and Music Group of Iowa, REPLAY and the Hmong American Student Association (HASA) Dance Crew.


Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony took place on Sunday morning from 12:40-1:00pm, with remarks and appreciations from Co-Chairs Ian Baird and Vinya Sysamouth. Following, Dr. Baird spoke about the passing of Roger Rumpf, who played an important role in Laos in the late 1970s as the representative of Quaker Service Laos (together with his wife Jacqui Chagnon), and up until recently, and Dr. Katherine Bowie, Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) at UW-Madison, who talked about the CSEAS and provided insight on how ICLS participants could make the most of their visit in the city of Madison. This was followed by the official passing of the gold thread-embroidered flag of the Lao Studies conference logo (made by Tiao Somsanith Nithakhong) from the current Conference host to the next Conference host: Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand. Dr. Varisa Kamalanavin, gave an acceptance speech and showed a video about Thammasat University. The Center for Lao Studies and Thammasat University will work closely together to organize the next conference in 2016.


Presentation Submissions
ICLS will be accepting full papers from those who would like to have their presentations considered for publication. The two options for publication are 1) CLS's peer-reviewed Journal of Lao Studies, available online for members of CLS, and 2) the double-blind peer-reviewed 4th International Conference on Lao Studies Manuscript. The due date for submissions for the Journal of Lao Studies is December 31, 2013, and selected presentations will be published within a year of the Conference. Submissions for the Manuscript are due July 1, 2013, with a later publication date. For full details on submission procedures, please visit: https://www.laostudies.org/icls/iv/article-submissions.
We'd like your feedback on the Conference! We have created a survey specifically for Conference participants on your experience throughout the weekend and the many elements of the Conference. To participate in this important survey, please visit:http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CK7PDL5. All responses are anonymous and will go towards helping the organizing committee members plan for the 2016 Conference. So please share your thoughts with us! 
Additional Information, Photographs & Videos 
For additional information on the Conference, please visit www.laostudies.org. Photographs of the conference will be available at the Center's website soon. If you have photos from the conference you would like to share, please email us the link at: info@laostudies.orgYou could also view more photos taken by Mr. Boumy Phimmasene at: https://plus.google.com/photos/110776183529854673675/albums/5870689678880851489?banner=pwa
News coverage from Voice of America (VOA) in Lao could be viewed at: http://lao.voanews.com/content/laos-studies/1666965.html, and from Radio Free Asia (RFA) at: http://www.rfa.org/lao/politics/fourth-conference-on-lao-studies-04222013140347.html
Thank you to everyone who helped make the Fourth International Conference on Lao Studies such a success! The Center for Lao Studies would also like to extend our warmest gratitude to our Conference sponsors: 
Henry Luce Foundation  
The Anonymous Fund, University of Wisconsin-Madison  
The Lao Buddhist Association of Madison, Wisconsin  
The Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison




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