When Mr. Thang approached me for money the first time, he did so cautiously, explaining that he needed a hundred dollars to purchase material for school uniforms and pay tuition for his two daughters in high school. At the end of his story, he punctuated his story with a “what do you think of that,” as if he did not quite believe it himself. The image of his school-age daughters caught me off-guard. I quickly convinced myself that I was learning something from him and could — perhaps should — pay him for our conversations as I had paid others for more formal language instruction. So I became complicit in the economy of intimacy in which stories could be exchanged for cash, but without ever outright acknowledging what we each thought the money represented.
Allison Truitt, “Hot Loans and Cold Cash in Saigon,” in Money: Ethnographic Encounters, ed. Stefan Senders and Allison Truit (Berg: 2007), p.60.
… people employ money as a means of creating, transforming, and differentiating their social relations. Instead of a single, fungible money that reduces social relations to a thin common denominator, they show us the integration of differentiated monies into the whole range of interpersonal ties. As a consequence, people are constantly creating new monies, and they do so by segregating different streams of legal tender into funds for distinct activities and relations. For example, people regularly distinguish between relations that are short-term or long-term, intimate or impersonal, and broad or narrow in the range of shared activities they encompass. People also mark moral boundaries among categories of money: consider the variable meanings of “dirty” money, “easy” money, or “ blood” money. People often “launder” dubious earnings by making donations to charity or other morally cleansing destinations.
Viviana Zelizer, Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy (Princeton University Press: 2011), p.89.