Beyond the local – Exploring the socio-spatial patterns of translocal network capital and its role in household resilience in Northeast Thailand

Till Rockenbauch / Patrick Sakdapolrak / Harald Sterly

In: Geoforum, available online 28 October 2019 (In Press) - doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.09.009

 

Abstract

Livelihood studies have highlighted social support networks as critical sources of social capital and as an important feature of rural households' resilience, however so far, have contributed little the understanding of network capital's socio-spatial patterns. Accordingly, livelihood studies have tended to omit relevant determinants of rural households' resilience, especially in emerging and developing countries, such as Thailand, where rapid agrarian change and migration have resulted in increasing translocal connectedness between rural and urban areas and unevenly distributed livelihood outcomes. This paper aims at closing this gap, by systematically assessing the socio-spatial patterns of rural households' translocal networks in Northeast Thailand. Applying a translocal network approach combining methods of formal social network analysis (SNA) and qualitative network research, we find that translocal network capital matters more for accessing advice than for labor, but particularly for accessing financial support. Although poor households have less translocal network capital at their disposal, they depend more critically on translocal networks than rich households. While poor households rely particularly on migration-related bonding ties to provide financial means for coping with precarious livelihood conditions, rich households can leverage institutional translocal bridging ties to access advice and finance for the transformation towards market-oriented agriculture. These findings suggest that, in Northeast Thailand, translocal network capital contributes less to the poors' than to the richs' resilience. We conclude by calling for a more nuanced consideration of the socio-spatial patterns of network capital and propose applying a translocal network perspective as a fruitful means to this end.