A Comparative Study of Traditional Stilt Houses in Southeast Asia and Central America

Authors: Scott Brown*, Francis Marion University
Topics: Asia, Latin America, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: folk housing, stilt houses, material culture, cultural landscape, Southeast Asia, Central America
Session Type: Guided Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download



Folk housing is one of the symbols of material culture that manifests human adaptation to the natural environment as well as the cultural history of a place or region. The purpose of my research on traditional stilt houses is to highlight how common adaptive traits among geographically separate cultures under similar ecological circumstances are visible in the composition of traditional folk houses throughout the humid tropics. Due to the continued existence of traditional modes of life throughout many rural areas in Central America as well as in Southeast Asia, especially in Nicaragua and in Myanmar, I use the folk house as an appropriate tool in which to interpret the cultural landscape.

In the case of stilt houses, many of the traditional dwellings throughout Southeast Asia bear strong similarities to those in Central America, due principally to similar climate, vegetation, and topography. In both regions, stilt houses manifest adaptation to areas that are vulnerable to flooding, such as coastlines, wetlands, and floodplains. In some areas of Central America and throughout Southeast Asia, stilt houses demonstrate cultural preferences for dwellings that are elevated high off the ground, as they also tend to be common away from flood-prone areas, even in areas characterized by rugged topography. Both regions also share similar cultural landscapes in that they display a diversity of numerous indigenous ethnic groups together with significant European influences. Here, I demonstrate both similarities and differences between the stilt dwellings in Central America and those in Southeast Asia.

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