Why should a book on Laos begin with a theoretical chapter? One reason is to acquaint the reader with the theoretical concepts which inform the following analyses. A more important reason is that too many naive and ‘Orientalist’ writings on Laos have been published which tell the reader more about the author than about the country.1 Unless writers adopt a critical attitude towards their assumptions and presuppositions, they tend to repeat stereotypes-stereotypes that are particularly convincing and attractive in the case of Laos. At the very least, critical reflexivity involves examining one’s tacit theoretical presuppositions. It implies a transformation of these presuppositions into hypotheses and a review of the concepts used in formulating these hypotheses. The following paragraphs aim at an explanation of this process as it affected my research for this book.