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Market and monastery: Manangi trade diasporas in South and Southeast AsiaPrista Ratanapruck
In the last twenty years, anthropologists have been paying increasing attention to trans-local movements of people and cultures. Prior to this interest in anthropology, historians have been studying contacts and connections among people of different societies and cultures. In the established historiography of transregional trade and commerce in Asia, however, Asian traders were eclipsed by eighteenth-century Western colonial trade and expansion. This dissertation draws attention to the Manangi, a community of long-distance traders from Nepal who have been around Asia for centuries. Their trade has thrived in the presence of larger competitors, to the extent that it can generate sufficient surplus to sponsor grand social and religious projects, and support a large fraction of their population in monasteries. This dissertation investigates the social arrangements and ideas that have enabled the Manangis to expand their economy, while also fulfilling their social and religious goals. During field research in Nepal, Tibet, India, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore between 2001 and 2005, I examined three sets of social institutions that facilitate and enforce partnerships and mutual exchanges in the Manangi community. These are communal rooming houses abroad; individual Manangis who have married local women and become local institutions among traveling Manangis; and institutionalized social and religious gatherings in Nepal. Partnerships in the Manangi community are what Aristotle describes as civic friendship, which aligns individuals' interests with that of the collective. Through civic friendship, Manangis have been able to accumulate and redistribute surplus in ways that bring external surplus to the community, enabling them to use this wealth to achieve higher social and spiritual ends. The Manangi community has exemplified the idea that for a society to achieve its higher non-material ends, it must be mindful of these ends, and that the economic life must be embedded in various forms of social institutions—institutions that have taken generations to evolve, and that are capable of bringing society to fulfill its meaningful purposes. Such development is what one may call progress. This concept of progress complicates the linear Eurocentric economic history and the narrative of the rise of the West.
Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Anthropology; History; Manang, Manangi; Manangi; Nepal; South Asia; Southeast Asia; Trade diasporas; Religion; Cultural anthropology; Economic history; Studies; 0326:Cultural anthropology; 0509:Economic history; 0318:Religion
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