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Charles Zuckerman

Charles Zuckerman is a linguistic anthropologist who studies how cultural categories mediate ethical life in human interaction. Most of his long-term research has been in Laos, but over the past few years, he has become increasingly interested in how people across the world are using new communicative technologies to cultivate ethical dispositions.

His current book project explores the moral economy of gambling in Luang Prabang, Laos and the social categories that make this moral economy legible and politically actionable. The result is a rethinking of how scholars should understand the many roles that social categories play in our lives.

He is a core faculty member in UCSD’s Linguistic Anthropology Lab. He thinks best, and has the most fun, when thinking aloud with others.


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ph.D. (2018) and MA (2013) in Anthropology

Reed College, Portland, Oregon, B.A. in Linguistics (2009) 


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

  • 2024 (in press), N. J. Enfield and Charles H. P. Zuckerman, “Moorings: Linguistic practices and
    the tethering of experience, action, and status,” Current Anthropology.
  • 2023, Charles H. P. Zuckerman and N. J. Enfield, “The Limits of Thematization,” Journal of
    Linguistic Anthropology. Download Here
  • 2023, “Video Footage and The Grain of Practice,” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 13 (1):
    128-145. Download Here
  • 2022, “When Ethics Can’t be Found: Evaluative Gaps in Ordinary Life,” Cultural Anthropology,
    37 (3): 450-485. Download Here
  • 2022, Charles H. P. Zuckerman and John Mathias, “The Limits of Bodies: Gatherings and the
    Problem of Collective Presence,” American Anthropologist 124 (2): 345-357. Download Here
  • 2022, Charles H. P. Zuckerman and N. J. Enfield, “The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Kri:
    House Construction and Ethnolinguistic Transformation in Upland Laos,” Journal of the Royal
    Anthropological Institute 28 (1): 178-203. Download Here
  • 2021, “Figure Composition.” Signs and Society 9 (3): 263-299. Download Here
  • 2021, “Introduction to The Generic Special Issue.” Language in Society 50 (4): 509-515. Download Here
  • 2021, “On the Unity of Types: Lao Gambling, Ethno-Metapragmatics, and Generic and Specific
    Modes of Typification.’” Language in Society 50 (4): 557-582. Download Here
  • 2020, “‘Don’t gamble for money with friends’: Moral Economic Types and their Uses.”
    American Ethnologist 47 (4): 432-446. Download Here
  • 2016, “Phatic Violence? Gambling and the Arts of Distraction in Laos.” Journal of Linguistic
    Anthropology 26 (3): 294-314. Download Here

Book Chapters, Encyclopedia Entries, and Non-Refereed Articles

  • 2024 (Accepted), “Language,” with N. J. Enfield. In The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary
    Laos, Creak, Simon, Holly High, and Oliver Tappe (eds.)
  • 2023, “‘Friends who don’t throw each other away’: Friendship, pronouns, and relations on the
    edge in Luang Prabang, Laos.” In Signs of Deference, Signs of Demeanour: Interlocutor
    Reference and Self-Other Relations across Southeast Asian Speech Communities, Djenar, Dwi
    Noverini and Jack Sidnell (eds), 138-159, NUS Press. Download Here
  • 2020, “The Phatic: Communication and Communion.” In International Encyclopedia of
    Linguistic Anthropology. James Stanlow, ed. Hoboken, New Jersey, Wiley Blackwell. Download Here
  • 2020, Charles H. P. Zuckerman and N. J. Enfield, “Heavy Sound Light Sound: A Nam Noi
    Metalinguistic Trope.” In N. J. Enfield, Jack Sidnell, and Charles H. P. Zuckerman (eds). Studies
    in the Anthropology of Language in Mainland Southeast Asia, pp. 85–92. Journal of the
    Southeast Asian Linguistics Society Special Publication No. 6. University of Hawai’i Press, 2020 Download Here
  • 2017, “Disrupting Agents, Distributing Agency.” In Distributed Agency. Nick Enfield and Paul
    Kockelman, eds. Pp. 253-269. New York: Oxford University Press. Download Here
  • 2012, “Lao Lum, Lao Theung, Lao Suung: A Few Reflections on Some Common Lao
    Ethnonyms.” Cornell University Southeast Asia Program E-Bulletin (Spring 2012): 13-18. Download Here

Book Reviews

  • 2020, Review of Money Games: Gambling in a Papua New Guinea Town. By Anthony J. Pickles.
    New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books. 2019 Pp: xi + 203 Price: US$120 Oceania 90 (2): 167-168. Download Here
  • 2016, Review of Fields of Desire: Poverty and Policy in Laos By Holly High Singapore: NUS
    Press. 2014 Pp: xiv + 213 pp. Oceania 86 (2): 214-215. Download Here
  • 2013, Review of Dynamic Embodiment for Social Theory: “I Move Therefore I Am.” by Brenda
    Farnell. London and New York: Routledge, 2012. xv + 159 pp. Journal of Linguistic
    Anthropology 23 (3): 221-223. Download Here

In Preparation

  • Invited Chapters

    • “The Ethics of Interaction.” In Emerging Ethnographic Perspectives on Laos, Lutz, Paul-David and Rosalie Stolz (eds.) For NIAS Press
  • Book Manuscript

    • What the Action is: gambling and moral categories in late-socialist Laos

Edited Special Issues

  • 2021, The Generic, Special Issue of Language in Society 50(4).
  • 2020, with N. J. Enfield and Jack Sidnell, Studies in the Anthropology of Language in Mainland Southeast Asia, pp. v-vi. Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society Special Publication No. 6. University of Hawai’i Press, 2020.