1st Edition

Social Ontology, Sociocultures, and Inequality in the Global South

Edited By Benjamin Baumann, Daniel Bultmann Copyright 2020
    252 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    252 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Challenging the assumption that the capitalist transformation includes a radical break with the past, this edited volume traces how historically older forms of social inequality are transformed but persist in the present to shape the social structure of contemporary societies in the global South.

    Each social collective comprises an interpretation of itself – including the meaning of life, the concept of a human person, and the notion of a collective. This volume studies the interpretation that various social collectives have of themselves. This interpretation is referred to as social ontology. All chapters of the edited volume focus on the relation between social ontology and structures of inequality. They argue that each society comprises several historical layers of social ontology that correspond to layers of inequality, which are referred to as sociocultures. Thereby, the volume explains why and how structures of inequality differ between contemporary collectives in the global South, even though all of them seem to have similar structures, institutions, and economies.

    The volume is aimed at academics, students and the interested public looking for a novel theorization of social inequality pertaining to social collectives in the global South.

    1. Introduction

    Benjamin Baumann and Daniel Bultmann

    2. Rethinking the Social: Social Ontology, Sociocultures, and Social Inequality

    Benjamin Baumann and Boike Rehbein

    3. The South Against the Destroying Machine: An Interdisciplinary Attempt to Theorize Social Ontology for a Decolonial Project in the Social Sciences

    Lara Hofner

    4. Reconceptualizing the Cosmic Polity: The Tai mueang as a Social Ontology

    Benjamin Baumann

    5. Developmentalism and the Misacknowledgement of Socio-Ontological Difference: The Coloniality of Being in the Colombian Pacific Basin

    Andrés Bateman

    6. The Social Ontology of Caste

    Boike Rehbein and Tamer Söyler

    7. Colonial Social Ontology and the Persistence of Colonial Sociocultures in Contemporary Indonesia

    Vincent Houben

    8. Social Ontologies as World-Making Projects: The Mueang-Pa Duality in Laos

    Michael Kleinod

    9. Clashing Social Ontologies: A Sociological History of Political Violence in the Cambodian Elite

    Daniel Bultmann

    10. Social Inequality, Sociocultures and Social Ontology in Brazil

    Emerson Ferreira Rocha and Boike Rehbein

    11. Collectivity and Individuality in Contemporary Urban Kenya: Social Ontologies in Nairobi

    Florian Stoll

    12. Pre-Modern Local Collective Structures and their Manifestation in Contemporary Society: A Case Study from Japan

    Kie Sanada

    13. The Sociocultural Making of Inequality in Today’s China: Symbolic Construction and Collective Habitus

    Lumin Fang


    Benjamin Baumann is postdoctoral associate at Heidelberg University’s Department of Anthropology. Before joining Heidelberg University in April 2020, he was research associate at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Institute of Asian and African Studies. Trained as a socio-cultural anthropologist, his work examines rural life-worlds, socio-cultural identities, and local language games. His ethnographic research has focused on the interrelationship between religion, social reproduction and communal belonging in the border regions between Thailand and Cambodia.

    Daniel Bultmann is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and research fellow of the Department of Social Sciences at Universität Siegen. His work focuses on the political and historical sociology of violence and armed groups, peace transformations, and social inequality as well as on the production of knowledge in (post-)conflict zones, with his regional focus centred on Southeast Asia and Cambodia in particular.

    "This volume explodes the idea that global integration yields cultural convergence. It shows the many layers and meanings of inequality and differences in the global south. In so doing, the authors illuminate how societies amalgamated old and new insights and definitions of their collective selves. This book is a model for the production of new area studies knowledge."

    — Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and Director of the Global History Lab at Princeton University, USA

    "The book provides an innovative conceptual framework for an understanding of the 'social' of 'inequality', a subject becoming increasingly popular across disciplines of the social sciences. Chapters presented in the book also provide empirical case studies that both show the value of the conceptual framework suggested in the opening chapter and the significant advance that such a comparative perspective could offer to the study of social inequality. This book will have a lasting impact on the field."

    — Surinder S. Jodhka, Professor of Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India