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ANTH 1002: Anthropology in the world
Module 3, Week 1, Lecture 2
Social Sciences Building (A02), Room 410
September 25, 2019
Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/1002/3.1.2
Reciprocity is not something that one only finds in a few societies. Even societies which have created the possibility of individualism, for instance “the West,” also exchange gifts and also impose the obligations of reciprocity.
Even if people do not speak of their relationships or the institutions of society in terms of obligations of reciprocity, these obligations are still present in some way in these societies because, as Mauss argues, reciprocity itself is fundamental to society as a total system.
Gifts come with obligations. Specifically, giving a gift involves a triple obligation:
Mauss says that these obligations arise from the fundamental fact that society is a system of total services in which everything one does is for someone else, and other people do everything for you. It is a state of total interdependence.
Go to Canvas and take Quiz 14: That's not reciprocity.
The quiz has an answer which Ryan thinks is “right” and you will get a point for getting it “right” (but you can take the quiz multiple times).
Ryan will reveal the password in class.
People of Auhelawa grow a variety of indigenous and introduced crops, but everyone grows these two species of yam:
A harvest of ʻwateya is divided into (1) gifts to other kin, (2) seed lines for one's children, (3) food for one's family. Halutu is similar ranked and classified, and the best of the harvest is given as a gift.
The moka (and the potlatch as described by Eriksen) is a system of total services of an agonistic type.
Agonistic means that the sides in an exchange are competing to give more services to the other, and to raise the stakes of reciprocity.
Moka exchanges make people's economic behavior subordinate to the political sphere. The leaders of Kawelka, big men like Ongka, are those who can coordinate many different reciprocal exchanges with many people to create a group (see Nairn 1976).
When one lives in a society based on buying and selling, one is trained to see oneself as an individual, and one becomes blind to the ways in which one is part of a system of total services. Yet all societies at some level are systems of total services, even if their members can't see this or don't want to see this.
Nairn, Charlie. 1976. Ongka’s Big Moka. Granada Television. http://www.der.org/films/ongkas-big-moka.html.