Always on the lookout for good material for the REA series, at the end of March, 2007, I contacted Geert De Neve about a workshop he and his colleagues, Peter Luetchford and Jeffrey Pratt, were preparing to host in late April at the University of Sussex. Word of the workshop had initially come to me via the Society for Economic Anthropology Listserv months earlier. At the time I was tied up with Volume 26, a health-related installment, and so had only hoped to pick up a few quality papers for a later volume, thinking that they could perhaps be grouped into a special section together. Fortunately, however, I got much more.
Four years ago I co-edited a book with Geert De Neve and two of his colleagues at the University of Sussex – Jeff Pratt and Peter Luetchford. The chapters had originally been presented at the Hidden Hands in the Market workshop held at Sussex in April of 2007 and organized by Geert, Jeff, and Peter. After hearing about the workshop I wrote to Geert, hoping to scoop up a few bits of gold for REA, but as it turned out I had struck the mother lode. Our co-edited book was Volume 28 of REA – Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (2008) – one of the installments that I remain proudest of, and the first REA volume under Emerald with which I was directly involved. The volume explores the relationship between producers and consumers, focusing on its moral and political content, in a very broad sense.
Bosco, Liu, and West's chapter on underground lotteries in rural China is one that begs permission to cross the boundaries between parts of this volume, for it deals with…
Bosco, Liu, and West's chapter on underground lotteries in rural China is one that begs permission to cross the boundaries between parts of this volume, for it deals with the integration of the Chinese economy with others, and it also poses certain moral questions about the nature of markets and rationality in economic exchanges (see also Suarez, this volume). But the authors, after reviewing the evidence, ultimately conclude that China's underground lotteries must be viewed in relation to that country's phenomenal economic development in recent decades. They show that the rise of illegal underground lotteries in China is tightly connected to the development of the modern capitalist economy there, and that although it seems at first glance to be powered by irrationality and superstition, it actually functions according to capitalist principles – at least as viewed by the participants. They also argue that rural villagers who place bets in them are not mere victims of nonsensical beliefs or of opportunistic “outsiders,” but rather that they are participating in their own way in a system in which luck clearly plays a very large role, but one over which they have little control, and one that is grounded in the historical commercialized economy of China (see also Richardson, 1999). It is interesting to note the way that participants rationalize the lottery and their actions through their assumption that it is rigged – their approach to it is markedly different from that of someone from, for example, Japan or the United States, where such a lottery is assumed from the start to not be rigged. Bosco and co-authors well demonstrate here the importance of viewing a cultural phenomenon as part of a greater whole, and one in a constant state of flux.
Japanese preschools have been the subject of extensive ethnographic investigation over the last 40 years or more. However, the market for preschools in Japan has received…
Japanese preschools have been the subject of extensive ethnographic investigation over the last 40 years or more. However, the market for preschools in Japan has received almost no such attention. This market is rapidly changing, for the recent sharp decrease in the number of children in the country has resulted in a growing struggle on the part of kindergartens to attract children, largely by catering to the needs of mothers, for their survival. This chapter, by considering children as a common-pool resource (CPR) for which kindergartens quietly vie with one another, examines the situation in the capital city of Akita Prefecture, and shows how mothers – and also households – have been able to benefit in terms of convenience due to competition among kindergartens for their children.