"We do it for each other": Akha 'other' inclusiveness in subsistence and capitalist contexts
Deborah Tooker (Le Moyne College)
Paper short abstract:
This paper looks at Akha (Northern Thailand) attitudes and practices towards outsiders in both subsistence and capitalist contexts.
Paper long abstract:
When a newly capitalist entrepreneur (a member of the Akha minority group) from the hills of Northern Thailand wanted to spend the profit he made in the coffee business, he built a coffee house that was essentially a 'welcome center'. At least in the past, Akha customary practices/rituals and ideas held concepts of inclusion of the 'other' (literal term) and a relativistic attitude towards the practices and ideas of other (non-Akha) groups. This was part and parcel of a cosmic embeddedness of both self and other, and of a maintenance of a balance between inner and outer. Many argue that this type of embeddedness gets destroyed with capitalism and an exclusive individualism emerges. As the Akha move from a mainly subsistence economy to a capitalistic cash crop/wage labor economy, I still find resonances of these inclusive practices (which may vary by class). While the example above can be seen as the continuation of hospitality practices in new businesses which deal with outsiders from many different groups, it is also 'good for business'. This paper is based on fieldwork conducted among the Akha of Northern Thailand from the early 1980s to the present (2018).
Moving between self and other: Navigating hierarchy and alterity in cosmopolitical encounters