Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sphere of exchange

I felt that the sphere of exchange was relating to the different layers or types of merchandise being exchanged.  They said there were 3 tiers of merchandise in which they categorized, whether it be from humans through bridal exchange through something as minuscule as chilies.  The chain of motions that the merchandise travels in is also a very likely thought in which the term "sphere of exchange"is meant.  What i found interesting about the reading was how they value different items.  How they determine what is worth the highest exchange.  Brass for one, they said the price fluctuated a lot, it started at the top and is slowly decreasing in price.  I wonder why bronze is such a powerful exchange in the culture.  I mean i know mainly because of the jewelry factor, but being from a materialistic society its hard to wrap your mind around.  All in all i found this article pretty educating about the transfer or exchange or properties within the TIV population.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Challenge to Mauss' Analysis of the Gifts to Gods

Snapjudgement - Rite of Passage - The Offering

As some of you have picked up already in the blog posts, Mauss discusses gift exchange among peers in comparison to gifts / offerings to the Gods. Here's one short story from Snap that counters the motivations of such gifts. It's a fun listening!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Significance of Exchange

One of the ideas from the first couple of chapters of Mauss' The Gift  I found to be of interest was how significant and specific the process of exchange was for these cultures. I was admittedly a bit lost trying to understand the process of exchange for the Maori on pg. 11, but what I was able to take from that section was how the process of exchange required a balance from those who were giving and receiving gifts, and that it was the exchange not the items that possessed a positive spirit. Though the Maori have their own words for the significant spirit or energy that exists within the process of exchange, I believe we can all relate to the significance of giving over the actual gift itself. This sense of balance reflected by the Maori is similar in my opinion to Mauss' later explanations of reciprocity. Does this example show that idea of reciprocity? Were there example that stand out as not showing the idea of reciprocity?What other examples also reflect the significance of the exchange, instead of the object itself?

The Ties That Bind

            I took this picture of a Spirit House in Thailand some years ago. Families build small structures outside of homes and places of business to both shelter and appease spirits who they believe will cause havoc in their lives if they are not given respect in the form of small gifts.This extends to the “spirit of the land,” who must be asked for permission when new construction or improvements are planned.[1]  I thought of this kind of gift giving when I read through Mauss’ book, The Gift, as another way people order their lives, extending even to the unseen, through systems of reciprocity.

            In Mauss’ book we see examples of giving and receiving presented as multi-layered constructions of reality.  These activities speak to how we organize and maintain our social structures, such as morality, community, economics, politics, and religion. Because I have an interest in what creates community, I found what Mauss talked about on page 13 to be interesting.  He made it clear that the act of giving and receiving is critical to maintaining a sense of community.  He wrote, “To refuse to give, to fail to invite, just as to refuse to accept…is to reject the bond of alliance and commonality.”[2]

            To be sure, scale has much to do with how we understand commonality or interdependence, but with the general idea of how reciprocity binds us together, it makes me consider what is impacted by reducing the obligations of giving in our society to a paper (or plastic/virtual) exchange.  Does it make a difference that I am put out in no other way than a debit on my bank ledger when I give only money to satisfy a debt?  What difference is there in giving that requires more from me in terms of my time, my mental and emotional involvement, or even opening private geographies or personal spaces? Does the act of giving and receiving in this case, bind a person to another in a different way?

[1] Welcome to Chiangmai and Chiangrai Magazine. The Thai Spirit House.
[2] Mauss, M. (1990). The Gift. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.  

Mauss and Gift holism (on behalf of Mike H.)

Pritchard’s introduction of Mauss’s background in comparative religion is intriguing to consider when his analyses of different cultural conceptions are examined with aims of presenting separate holistically finite contexts of their factual objectivity. Sharing narrative space with Mauss for explanatory or deconstructing different cultural understanding of exchange is increasingly difficult to distinguishing reader’s 21st century, Mauss 20th century, subject group’s sense of time, and Ian Cunnison’s translational liberties to form some semblance of lucid holistic vision.

However, I speculate even understanding Mauss’s perception of each studied community as encapsulating all aspects of economic, moral, political, and social forms of transactions is still insufficient. Methodology founded on familiar western academic subjects displaces categorization and placement within indigenous society limiting under Mauss’s aesthetic reasoning of what is whole. Does presenting other societies under his perceived emic translation of other cultures still valid to dissolve barriers of separate trains of understanding? Depending readers on ethnographic work, elaborated by Mauss further philosophical meandering, and toppled on personal measurements of what is problematic enough; or does our translation suffice?

Are there areligious motivations for giving to the poor?

At the end of chapter one in The Gift, Mauss describes the giving of alms as: “Giving is an obligation, because Nemisis avenges the poor and the gods for the superabundance of happiness and wealth of certain people who should rid themselves of it. … The gods and the spirits accept that the share of wealth and happiness that has been offered to them and has been hitherto destroyed in useless sacrifices should serve the poor and children.” (p. 18)

Alms-giving necessarily is rooted in religion, he says, because the rationale is that giving to the poor appeases the gods. What does altruism like helping the poor mean for societies in which religion is not such a pressing issue? Is it more or less prevalent, and is giving and the motivations for giving a leftover habit from past generations? I identify as agnostic, and I enjoy volunteering and giving monetary gifts, when I can afford it, primarily because it makes me “feel good,” not because I fear the wrath of some god. Is this act of appeasing the gods a manifestation of some part of human nature or are my personal, deeper motivations unknown to me?