SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Sarah Elsing

Magister in Social Anthropology/Political Science/Sociology (Frankfurt a.M./Germany
  • Overview


Sarah Elsing
Miss Sarah Elsing
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Thai-Lao border as a contested space – An ethnography of small-scale cross-border trade (working title)
Internal Supervisors


  • Border studies
  • Anthropology of the state
  • Refugee livelihoods
  • Migrant transnationalism

My regional focus is on continental Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, Laos and Burma. My previous research dealt with refugee livelihoods along the Thai-Burmese border.

PhD Research

My doctoral research investigates how the Thai-Lao border is contested in the everyday lives of small-scale cross-border traders. It highlights the roles of the state, citizenship, kinship, and exchange in this contestation. Social relationships and even kinship relations, for example, exist not only in-between traders but also between traders and state officials. Historical memories have also shaped local perceptions of the border, its residents and the state.
Highlighting these different aspects entails not only an analysis of their interrelatedness in everyday life but also how they effect the ways in which small-scale cross-border trade is facilitated and restricted. In doing so, I seek to give a more differentiated view of life and trade along this Southeast Asian border.
My findings are based on 12-months ethnographic fieldwork in Thailand and Laos. My informants included short- and long-distance cross-border traders, shop owners, boat operators, the Thai paramilitary, border volunteers and village headmen.

PhD Conferences

  • 2012 - 7th Asian Graduate Forum on Southeast Asian Studies, July 16-20, Opportunities for small-scale trade across the Thai-Lao border – Between struggling against the state and accommodating personal interests. Asian Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Research affiliate at the Mekong Subregion Social Research Centre (MSSRC), Ubon Ratchathani University, Thailand