The lucky and unlucky daughter gender, land inheritance and agrarian change in Ratanakiri, Camb...


n many agrarian societies, women come to own land, and people secure care in old age through land inheritance. The social norms guiding inheritance shape gendered, generational and class-based relations of power in rural areas, and intra-family land rights can be lost when inheritance norms shift. In Cambodia's northeastern Ratanakiri province, rapid agrarian change over the past decade—including the expansion of land grabs, cash cropping and Khmer in-migration—is transforming decision-making around inheritance. Based on a large sample of qualitative interviews and focus groups carried out in 2016 and 2020 with Indigenous and Khmer communities, we focus on the ways in which intergenerational and gendered obligations of care are being reconfigured as land scarcity and inequalities within rural areas become more pronounced. We argue that social norms around land inheritance are in flux, with a proliferation of diverse practices emerging including a shift from matrilineal to bilateral inheritance amongst some Indigenous families, the deferment of marriage and inheritance decisions due to a lack of land and parents taking on debt to buy land and secure care in older age. These changes are reconfiguring gendered and generational identities in relation to land and have potentially negative consequences for land-poor families, in particular, for poor Indigenous women. These changes are symptoms of a larger ‘crisis of care’ in rural communities.