Economic Anthropology. Economic Anthropology. Economics is the study of production, distribution, and consumption of resources. Economic Anthropology studies economics in a comparative perspective . A society’s economy consists of:. Production Consumption Distribution Exchange.
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Economizing and Maximization
Classical economic theory assumed that individuals universally acted rationally, by economizing to maximize profits, but comparative data shows that people frequently respond to other motivations than profit.
Accumulation of food for a feast. Yams are heaped up on the ground and fill the pwata'i (prism-shaped wooden receptacle): coconuts, sugar cane and bunches of areca nuts are displayed on top - the whole producing on the natives a strong impression of beauty, power and importance.
The Trobrianders produce far more yams than they can ever eat and often simply allow them to rot. Why?
“The act of giving or taking one thing in return for another”
What kinds of things are exchanged?
In order for social relationships to exist we must exchange something whether it is the communicative exchange of language, the economic and/or ceremonial exchange of goods or the exchange of spouses.
i.e. exchange is important for the establishment and maintenance of social relationships
“If Friends make gifts, Gifts Make Friends”
exchange is important for the establishment and maintenance of relationships
WHATwhat is the significance and meaning of what is
WHEREwhat is the significance and meaning of where it is exchanged
WHENon what occasions
Patterns of exchange and circulation, lead us to the heart of social and cultural organization
WHAT IS A GIFT?
IS THERE ANY SUCH THING AS A FREE GIFT?
Marcel Mauss 1925: The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies
Mauss points to three fields of obligation: to give, to receive and to repay
Gifts, according to Mauss, create relationships not only between individuals but between groups, relationships which take the form of total prestations
1872 - 1950
What rule of legality and self-interest, in societies of a backward or archaic type, compels the gift that has been received to be obligatorily reciprocated? What power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?” (Mauss 1925)
A form of ceremonial exchange of gifts employed by indigenous groups on NW coast of BC (Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian and Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw))
Both sexes wore cedar-bark or fur robes with one or both shoulders covered, and women had in addition bark aprons extending from the waist to the knees of cedar bark or goat-hair cords. Water-proof capes and hats were made of bark.
Crossing the strait
"Interior of Habitation at Nootka Sound"John Webber (British), April 1778
The Kwakiutl house is constructed of cedar boards on a framework of heavy logs. The ridge extends from front to back, the roof-boards run from ridge to eave, and the wall boards are perpendicular.
The word means ‘to feed’ or ‘to consume’
Potlatch at Fort Rupert, British Columbia, 1898
A Kwakiutl clan chief wore this mask when greeting rival chiefs invited for a potlatch. It reminded the guests of their host's great riches and their indebtedness to his generosity. This Kwakiutl mask represents a mythic ogress of the forest. Dz'onokwa, who skulked through villages at night to steal children to eat. She was also the "master of wealth," represented by the copper of her eyebrows, and so an appropriate symbol for the ceremonial feast.
The most central symbol of wealth, power and prestige is the copper, a shield-shaped plate of beaten copper that usually has a painted or engraved representation of a crest animal on its surface. Contemporary coppers as well as older ones frequently bear animal names - Sea Lion, Beaver face - probably referring to the crest of their original owners.
The Kwakiutl chief Tulthidi prepares to give away his valuable copper in honor of his son
Broken copperTsimshian: Gitsan, British ColumbiaCollected by G.T. Emmons, prior to 1914
Chilkat Blanket" 1890-1900, Tlingit
Today potlatch gifts include coffee mugs, socks, hand knit blankets and clothes, as well as carved masks and murals
Parties, as they are now sometimes called, commemorate a significant event in an extended family's or clan's collective life. They are held today for baby showers, namings, weddings, anniversaries, special birthdays, graduations, and as memorials for the dead
Twined grass basketNootka/Makah, British Columbia/Washington
Cedar carrying basket with handles
Why would they spend years accumulating wealth only to give it away - or even throw the objects into the sea?
The obligation to give
The obligation to receive
The obligation to reciprocate
· social mobility,
· manufacturing processes,
· issues of style,
· conventions of gift-giving.
Gift Exchange does not operate according to market laws, but the social rules of power, symbol, convention, etiquette, ritual, role and status.
Raffia Cloth among the Lele (Zaire)
The movement of raffia cloth among the Lele is another example of the mediation of status by goods.
Younger men need raffia to marry. But raffia is made and controlled by older men. In order to have access to raffia and hence marriage, younger men need the social approval of older men.
Since more raffia is required to marry than any one man can produce, it takes community approval to marry.
In modern economy, men can gain access to raffia through wage labor. This undercuts authority of elders and leads to charges of the selling of brides.
Marshal Sahlins Stone Age Economics (1972)
Kula Ring: vast inter-island system of exchange of certain classes of ritual objects — men’s armbands and bracelets
Like the crown jewels, their value is symbolic
There is no practical utility
Each valuable has its own name and history
Owning them provides the owner prestige and pride
social distance determines the nature of the exchange
Haggling at the market of Riobamba, Ecuador
distant kin relationships
is primary motivator
Prevalence in band societies
Exchange among social unequals
These workers in Yunnan Province, China, strive for an equal distribution of meat.
Redistribution in Western Society