The academic research on the history of agrarian reform is very limited hence very little is known in the field of agrarian history of Bhutan. This research pa-per is an attempt to reconstruct an understanding of the past agrarian reform in Bhutan in the 1950s and even prior. This study is based mainly on an ex-ploratory study and limited secondary resources. Particular attention is given to understanding the inter-relationship between the agrarian reform and the po-litical process of state modernization. This tries to connect the actual agrarian structures in the pre reform period with the political processes that had shaped the agrarian reform. This study reveals a detailed account on how agrarian re-form is being remembered in the particicular research area based in the eastern region while it also presents a general understanding on this particular subject. The main discussion in this study is that agrarian reform had been an ef-fective political strategy in state modernization breaking down the power of the landed political/landed elites. As a consequences on one hand we see relatively servile characteristics remain today imposed in the more modern context ex-pressed in different forms but on the other hand the reform had improved the livelihoods of the people at large redistributing land to the landless and end in the ‘serf’ system. Indeed while reviving the traditional agrarian structure it is widely recognized the universalisation of the terms/label such as ‘serf-dom/feudal’is an over simplification in Bhutan context and these terms are not relevant to describe the past system. The use of indigenous term and alterna-tive perspective is also questioned in this study. This study contributes to break down the internalization and clear understanding within the discourses so far that the past system is portrayed to legitimize current system while we have the unique elements and richness in the past agrarian structure to be more valued. The study ends with reflections on above discussions and what remains as a scope for the future researchers/scholars.

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Fischer, Andrew Martin
Rural Livelihoods and Global Change (RLGC)
International Institute of Social Studies

Yetsho, Tashi. (2010, December 17). Memories of agrarian reform in Bhutan: an exploratory study based on oral history. Rural Livelihoods and Global Change (RLGC). Retrieved from