Dates: 22 > 26 July 2024
Venue: University of Amsterdam EUROSEAS Conference 2024
Convenors: Paul-David Lutz, Rosalie Stolz

Overall Panel Abstract

This double-session panel answers recent calls for “continued and heightened attention” to the way culturally-specific concepts and values animate politics as lived in Laos today (High 2022:55). It will offer a series of ethnographic case studies that highlight the role of affect and ethical judgement in engagements with socio-economic transformation in contemporary Laos. This panel enquires into the culturally-specific resources, narratives and histories people in Laos draw on to make sense of and morally evaluate fast-paced change in their everyday lives. What role do affect, aesthetics, memories and histories play in these ethical judgements? How do sentiments like awe, scepticism, fear, aspiration and nostalgia shape commentary on/engagement with ongoing social, cultural and economic transformations?

Tackling these questions, this panel will take a participant observation-based approach, showing how values and locally/culturally-specific concepts connect with how things “really happen”. Supplementing political economy and political science approaches, it highlights the importance of ethnographic approaches to the study of politics, public opinion and ethics in Laos and the region more broadly.

Ethics, Affect and Moral Judgement amidst Momentous Change in Laos


  • Paul-David Lutz - Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Rosalie Stolz - University of Cologne


  • Giulio Ongaro (London School of Economics): When new shamans enter the scene: traditional customs and ecstatic healing among the Akha of northwestern Laos.
  • Floramante Ponce (Université libre de Bruxelles): Refrigeration after Relocation: How A Resettled Community Domesticates Refrigerators in Northern Laos.
  • Phill Wilcox (Bielefeld University): “The railway brings China closer, but also further away”: ethnographic observations on the Laos-China Railway and the (re)making of neighbour relations.
  • Thippaphone Xayavong (University of Warwick): Unwellness beyond disease: The broader perspective of health in Yru community.
  • Paul-David Lutz (Université libre de Bruxelles): Becoming Lowlanders? – (Agri-)Cultural Change and Ambivalent Nostalgia among Khmu in northern Laos.
  • Rosalie Stolz (University of Cologne): Emerging ethnographic perspectives on Laos, a discussion.

Paul-David Lutz Presentation Abstract

Becoming Lowlanders? – (Agri-)Cultural Change and Ambivalent Nostalgia among Khmu in northern Laos

This presentation draws on eight months of ethnographic fieldwork, conducted under the auspices of the SeedsValues research project between July 2023 and March 2024 in a roadside, wet-rice-growing Khmu community in northern Laos. It offers both an historical account of one community’s transition from upland swiddening to lowland wet-rice cultivation and the cash crop economy, as well as insight into locally- and culturally-specific memories and narratives are entangled with moral stances, ethical judgements and agricultural decision-making in the future-oriented present. Bringing rich ethnographic data into discussion of anthropology of memory, affect and (eco-)nostalgia, this paper shows the importance of “the past inside the present” (Petit 2019) as well as offering reflections on the ethnographers own affective stance.