Although written almost a year ago, its central premise remains relevant. Like many countries in Africa, Laos too was bombarded with ideas that mechanization was the same as civilization.
Laos saw the lingering and corrosive specter of such ideas during the pushback in Luang Prabang, when locals wanted to use development funds from UNESCO's World Heritage Site designation to build skyscrapers of glass and concrete. They considered wood "the construction material of the poor," disregarding the fact that it was these classic wood structures and the idyllic ancient architecture that earned this designation in the first place.
The idea that Africans can connect machinery with a sense of extraction and exploitation resonates with me as I watch foreign mining, animal trafficking and deforestation taking place unhindered by any concerns for sustainability.
How will that ultimately manifest itself? I am uncertain, but would approach the idea with great curiosity.
I look at the work of writers like Minister Faust, Saladin Ahmed, and Sofia Samatar and am quite encouraged by the ground we can break, but also remain acutely aware of the ground we must still cover.