The Canoe Racing Ritual of Luang Prabang

in Social Analysis
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This article presents an analysis of the canoe racing ritual conducted in the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers bordering the town of Luang Prabang in North Laos as part of an annual ritual cycle. It focuses upon the ways in which the socio-political order, articulated in the ritual, is valorized in reference to a model of cosmological sovereignty that is manifested in offerings brought to aquatic spirit manifestations of a primordial King and his Queen-Consorts. It identifies the present-day changes in the ritual that have been implemented by the socialist Lao state as part of an endeavor to replace the principle of monarchic sovereignty with the authority of the state and to supplant the socio-cosmological understanding of society with a corporate model of bureaucracy and market economy variables.