Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Abstract Benjamin Baumann

Socio-Cultural Repertoires and Village Community - Assessing the Limitations of Ethnicity for an Analysis of Social Identity Formation in Thailand’s Lower Isaan

My central concern is the question whether it is analytically justified to classify the Khmer speaking population of the lower Isaan as an ethnic group, hence identifying ethnicity as the principle quality of socio-cultural identification processes in this local socio-cultural context?

This question emerged relatively fast during my empirical fieldwork in a Khmer-speaking village in Buriram province and it points to a general problem of anthropology, namely the felt rupture between indigenous and anthropological models of social reality. The principle question for anthropological attempts at ‘grasping the native’s point of view‘ thus remains how a dialectic of emic and etic categories has to look like if one attempts to understand emic ideas of socio-cultural identity formation, while making them cross-culturally comparable.

I will argue that despite the recently voiced criticism ‘the village community’ remains a useful reference point for understanding actors’ conceptions of socio-cultural identity. ‘The village community’, however, has to be understood as continuously being remade through ritual practices, in which socio-cultural repertoires can not only be performed, but also represent the backdrop against which social-meaning is produced.