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Zuckerman, Charles Henry Pearson

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
October 10, 2013
Project Title: 
Zuckerman, Charles Henry Pearson, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'The Ethics of Exchange: Gambling and Interaction in Luang Prabang, Laos,' supervised by Dr. Michael Lempert

Preliminary abstract: Over the past twenty years, Luang Prabang (LPB), the once royal capital of Laos, has shifted from sleepy socialist hamlet to global tourist destination. The city's inhabitants have reacted to the influx of money and new forms of exchange with a mixture of desire and moral trepidation. My research studies how actors in LPB morally evaluate these new forms of exchange during face-to-face interaction. In 12 months of research, I will primarily investigate two forms of exchange--gambling for beer and gambling for money--as they occur in the popular game pétanque, which resembles bocce. Pétanque began to soar in popularity in LPB in the late 1990s and continues to grow as the Lao socialist state lifts many of its restrictions on gathering and gambling and embraces market capitalism, foreign investment, and tourism. Many people explicitly associate beer-gambling with the state, civil servants, and a distinctively 'Lao' and 'good' way of sharing. Conversely, they associate money-gambling with workers in the tourist sector and an increasingly common 'foreign' and 'immoral' way of consuming. I have chosen to study pétanque gambling because of its popularity, because of its morally fraught status, and because debates concerning the morality of the two forms of gambling appear to crystalize debates concerning new ways of making and spending money in LPB more generally. I am studying these exchanges with methods for studying face-to-face interaction because I predict that an attention to ordinary interaction will reveal the multiple modalities and methods through which exchanges become moral practices in the first place. More broadly, I anticipate that such an approach will shed light on the ethical domain itself.