The Mekong region continues to hold fascination for conference goers. Another opportunity is being hosted next January by the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development in Chiang Mai. I’m a big fan of a focus on the Mekong, though I do sometimes wonder if a hydrological entity is an any more legitimate basis for analysis than the now largely discredited nation state. Water does flow downhill (and that’s what makes river basins seem such a logical entity) but some of the key social, economic and political developments in the so-called Mekong “region” may be best understood by taking another look through the national lens.

The conference flyer states: “The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand is organizing an International Conference titled “Critical Transitions in the Mekong Region” to be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from January 29-31, 2007. The international conference is based on critically exploring the Mekong Region from a social science perspective and is aimed to strengthen and encourage greater understanding of the region using social science approaches, theories and techniques. The conference aims to enhance understanding of the rapid changes in the Mekong Region in the context of development and poverty and to examine the interconnectivity of people, markets, poverty, and government policy, as well as social and economic transition. The conference is also designed to promote and foster dialogue among actors and stakeholders in the Mekong Region, in particular international donor agencies, academics, NGOs, business sector representatives and local peoples. The conference will provide a foundation for interaction, discussion and debate on issues affecting livelihoods of local people, along with the potential for further analysis linking micro and macro dimensions of development and poverty in the Mekong Region.”

For further details go to RCSD’s web site. Abstracts are required by 1 September 2006.