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From Kettledrums to coins: Social transformation and the flow of valuables in northern Laos

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Chapter Summary

Three levels of social organization, all characterized by inside/outside distinctions from the Rmeet point of view, are important here: kinship groupings within Rmeet society; ethnic categories, in particular Rmeet and lowlanders; and states, in particular Laos and Thailand. At each level, the inside/outside relation is articulated in exchange. The definition of social entities by exchange has two aspects: the first concerns exchanges between them; the second consists of exchanges that are exclusive to members of one category or group. This chapter illustrates the interplay of these types of exchange. The interplay of different categories of exchange provides clues to the specific understanding the Rmeet have of their own society and its history. The chapter focuses on two items of wealth, bronze drums and French colonial silver coins, both of which were acquired by the Rmeet through the lowlands.

Keywords: Kettledrums; Northern Laos; Rmeet; silver coins



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