Rice, Women and Rituals
Elisabeth Preisig

Association for Research and Development,
Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.


The paper explores the role of Kmhmu’ women in livelihood, more precisely, the role in their rice culture. The careful study of the rice culture of the Kmhmu’ reveals an intimate relationship between rice and women. The ritual role of women in Kmhmu’ rice culture demonstrates the independence and interdependence of both sexes in the Kmhmu’ family and society, in the face of natural, and supernatural powers.

Planning and development, or change, without the careful weighing of the impact on this equilibrium could have a destabilizing effect on their society and break down patterns of responsibility and authority, thus eroding social structure and order.

Mountain rice fields cannot be done without reinforcement and help from others, so people working together well form field clusters and do their fields in close cooperation, helping each other out throughout the planting cycle. Apart from physical strength rice as well as rice growers need some supernatural protection and blessing.

While it is the men who perform most rituals and prayers in the life cycle of people, and in connection with the ancestors, women share responsibility in field rituals. In fact, some rituals in the fields even must be performed by a woman. Following this lead conducts to most interesting results for the understanding of Kmhmu’ social life and culture.