Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Exchange
Secondary Theme: Borders
Questions of value and valuation have been at the heart of discussions about capitalism since Marx first introduced the distinction between use value and exchange value. But how does value come into being at the intersection of capitalism and late socialism? What are the mechanisms that define value in countries going through political and cultural change? Katherine Verdery's "The Vanishing Hectare," documented post-socialist cultural transformation via changing property regimes of value. In it, she argues that value is a function of context and any alteration in context consequently changes values. Taking up this argument of context and change, the following panel examines value--in its variety of definition ranging from economic, sociological, and meaningfulness--to examine late socialist change in East and Southeast Asia. How can shifts in late socialist practices be traced through value and valuation of objects? What particular insights about late socialist regimes of value help to inform us about globalization and modernity? What are the implications of these changes for social relationships among individuals who may engage with multiple value systems? The panel will explore these questions through ethnographic investigations that include: the creation of health insurance as a commodity in Vietnam, language learning as a site for the formation of distinction in China, emerging notions of personhood in China's labor market, the valuation of fertilizer in Vietnam, and finally, the competing value systems intrinsic to international adoption within China. Drawing from these different case studies, these papers seek to highlight and raise questions about the tensions between context and value as they emerge in the dynamic cultural and globalizing regions of East and Southeast Asia.