The Lisu: Far from the Ruler. A Talk by Michele Zack



Award-winning journalist and historian Michele Zack writes about the egalitarian Lisu — a small ethnic group living primarily in mountainous regions of southwest China, Myanmar and Northern Thailand. Until recently, the Lisu avoided becoming subject to these states, preferring to live "far from the ruler".  Zack travelled extensively in tribal areas of Southeast Asia from the 1980s to the present, documenting 30 years of globalization on this one small group. Reading her book is like watching time-lapse photography of humanity’s journey from stateless tribal grouping to modernity - in a few years the Lisu covered ground which took most people generations. And they have done it in three very different national environments (five if you consider small populations in India and Laos), facing civil war and other existential obstacles, without losing identity. Written with a journalist’s eye for storytelling, Zack introduces the Lisu’s fascinating culture - providing insight into political choices we all make every day in a world turning toward authoritarianism.

Michele Zack is a writer and historian interested in the intersection of ideas about the world, and the ever-changing world itself. Her background is in journalism; she lived and reported for AsiaWeek and Far Eastern Economic Review from Thailand in the 1990s before returning to her native California. Her more recent focus has been broadening the context of local history to examine larger historical trends and themes. She wrote and programmed several national Teaching American History grants to improve and make history more compelling and relevant to today’s students in partnership with the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

Date: Thursday, 15 February 2018
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

Office Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am. – 5:00pm.

The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2017-2018 Lecture Series.