A diversity of place‐based community economic practices that enact ethical interdependence has long enabled livelihoods in Monsoon Asia. Managed either democratically or coercively, these culturally inflected practices have survived the rise of a cash economy, albeit in modified form, sometimes being co‐opted to state projects. In the modern development imaginary, these practices have been positioned as ‘traditional’, ‘rural’ and largely superseded. But if we read against the grain of modernisation, a largely hidden geography of community economic practices emerges. This paper introduces the project of documenting keywords of place‐based community economies in Monsoon Asia. It extends Raymond William’s cultural analysis of keywords into a non‐western context and situates this discursive approach within a material semiotic framing. The paper has been collaboratively written with co‐researchers across Southeast Asia and represents an experimental mode of scholarship that aims to advance a post‐development agenda.