285th Meeting – Tuesday, February 27th 2007


The Tree of Immeasurable Wealth - Inside and Outside of Rmeet Society, Highland Laos

A talk by Dr. Guido Sprenger

 Whenever Rmeet – an upland ethnic group of northern Laos, also called Lamet – discuss their relationship with the wealthy lowland, a particular story is invoked: Two Rmeet orphan boys plant a tree that produces money and valuables, but threatens the entire society. A closer look at this origin myth reveals how Rmeet society, their kinship system and ritual life, is intertwined with relationships with the lowlands, trade and markets. Rmeet society is situated on the margins of the modern nation state, but their social and ritual reproduction depends on outside relationships. The myth demonstrates this: Rmeet society in its entirety, in a nutshell.

Guido Sprenger is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taipei. He has been doing anthropological fieldwork among the Rmeet since 2000. He received his PhD from the University of Münster, Germany. His thesis, “The Men who cut the Money Tree: Concepts of Exchange and Society among the Rmeet of Takheung, Laos”, received the Award of the Frobenius Institut, Frankfurt.