The focus of this thesis is on the role of handicraft production in rural development in Northern Thailand, exploring how handicrafts evolve over time in the context of a modernising economy. This links with on-going debates on community-based development theory, including those related to rural industrialisation, rural-urban relations and biases, indigenous knowledge, rural poverty and livelihoods. The thesis seeks to return to an issue which was a popular area of investigation in the 1970s, namely the role of small-scale industries in rural development. Rural spaces have always contained an element of non-farm activities, often classified as ‘handicraft production’. Two villages in Chiang Mai province in Northern Thailand have been selected for study in order to assess the roles of handicrafts in rural development. One selected case study village is Baan Ton Pao, which is engaged in saa (mulberry) paper making. The other selected village is Baan Muang Kung, where handicraft production is based on pottery making. Through an empirical study of these two villages, Baan Ton Pao and Baan Muang Kung, this thesis shows that handicrafts have significant potential for promoting rural industrialisation and supporting rural development, especially through the One Tambon One Product programme. Handicrafts are, therefore, contributing to rural poverty alleviation through employment and income generation, and through generating economic growth rooted in the countryside, separate from efforts directed at agriculture and farming. However, it is also important to understand how this very effort is also creating new inequalities in the countryside and, arguably, new populations of poor people. The study is important because it has been argued – as noted above – that handicrafts have significant potential for promoting rural industries and supporting rural development and rural livelihoods – and yet this has rarely been studied in any great detail. The conceptual frameworks are impressive; the empirical support remains thin. This thesis contributes in a significant way to debates about rural development and particularly handicrafts in Thailand and beyond. \u
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