objects: social relations,reciprocity and gift exchange.

  • Created by: melissa
  • Created on: 10-05-15 10:29

Use of objects

Commodities = something that can be bought or sold, or traded that is regarded as important or valuable.  Eg: agricultural products,  minerals, material objects ie mobile phone. 

symbol= something that represents or typifies something else, one thing standing for or representing something else

Practical use of an object = how it is used in everyday life.  Mobile phone/internet etc. 

Symbolic use of an object = how an object may be functional but also express important meanings or represent an important belief/idea and social status in the community/societyKula exchange in Trobriand Islanders.   Mobile phone = you are somebody have lots of friends:  Miller/Horst study.Cows/Herds in Maasai culture represent wealth and status.   Jewellery – in courtship of Maasai and in western society ie wedding ring.  

Artistic use of object =  an object of art that has been created purposively to express culture/ belief system.  totems to express identity of a clan: Durkheim study of totems.  Paintings – painting women of Naya.   Headress etc in Kayapo.   Aboriginal paintings – link with the land and how it has become successful worldwide: Bourdieu cultural capital.     How art expresses local or national culture.   

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Horst and Miller: Mobile phone in Jamaica

Economic function: It is estimated that 86% of Jamaicans over age 15 owned a cell phone. Jamaicans ‘link-up’ because they create wide webs of resources that individuals can call on for gifts of money or aid in times of need.  Using the cell phone was a source of communication in time of need.   Money could be asked from family, friends local and international.  The cell phone enabled a social network for support through quick and instant communication.

In London, he argues, while nearly everyone has a mobile phone, for most it is just as an instrument for making phone calls. For others, taken an interest in the phones’ built-in capacity to surf the Internet, or to send videos.  By contrast, in Jamaica many people who have mobiles have ceased to wear a watch. They now use their mobile phone to act as a watch and an alarm.  They also take advantage of the ‘free stuff’ on mobile phones, such as a diary, calendar, calculator and the ability to store contacts and one’s personal network.   It is used to store memos to help micro-management of work or personal affairs and children play games as one would find in London.    Hand-crafting ******** ***********, pixel by pixel that could be sent by phone was also used.

However, it has come with problems too.   Cell phones have become an ‘absolute priority’ among Jamaican teens and distract them from their education. cell phone usage as increased though cell phones can sometimes be used to prevent crime, can also be used to plan crime.

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Generalised reciprocity

generalized reciprocity is that those who give goods do not expect the recipient to make a return at any definite time in the future. Generalised reciprocity occurs between individuals who are (expected to be) emotionally attached to one another, and therefore have an obligation to help one another on the basis of relative need.  For example:  parents provide their children with shelter, food, vehicles,  college/further and  higher education, are practicing generalized reciprocity.  In the future their children will provide care, emotional support, shopping trips etc when they are older.  Giving without expectation of definite return also should occur between other social relationships such as: wives and husbands, siblings and sometimes close friends.   Because it includes various forms of sharing with relatives and other people who are defined as close by cultural norms, generalized reciprocity is found in all societies. Among some people it is the dominant form of exchange, meaning that more resources are distributed using this form than any other form.  

For example: Generalised reciprocity ensures equitable – if not entirely equal distribution of food among groups who live closely with each other and rely on the land for food such as some indigenous groups.  Each member of an Inuit whaling crew will receive meat and blubber. Sharing the fruits of cooperative efforts is one form of generalized reciprocity.

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balanced reciprocity

balanced reciprocity, products are transferred to someone (the recipient) and the donor expects a return in products of roughly equal value. Over a long run, the value of the products exchanged should be close to equivalent. The return may be expected soon, or whenever the donor demands it, or by some specialized time in the future. With generalized reciprocity the giver continues to provide assistance even when the receiver is unable to return anything for  a long time. With balanced reciprocity, the giver tries to apply some kind of sanction against the receiver if the latter does not reciprocate within the appropriate time period. Although the value of objects exchanged is supposed to about equal, balanced reciprocity is characterized by the absence of bargaining between the parties.   

For example:   in the Trobriand Islands off the eastern tip of the island of New Guinea, there was a form of balanced reciprocity called wasi.  Residents of coastal villages traded fish for yams and other garden crops produced in mountainous interior. The exchange was formalized:  a coastal village paired off with an interior village and within each village individuals formed trade partnerships. The rates at which garden produce was exchanged for fish were established by custom, so there was no haggling at any particular transaction. In wasi, each trade partner received foods not readily available locally, so parties to the transaction gained a material benefit.

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Negative reciprocity

Negative reciprocity is usually motivated largely by the desire to obtain material goods at minimumcost.  Negative reciprocity is trade. It is the simultaneous and immediate exchange of one good or service for another. Trade can be characterized by antagonistic haggling or complete anonymity. The transaction is in no way dependent on trust or the closeness of the individuals involved in the exchange. The only relationship of significance is the equation of exchange values between the goods or services being traded. 

Eg of Negative reciprocity = selling prepared food in an urban street at an inflated price when there is very little competition and high demand.  (ie hot-dogs) what economists call barter.  Someone gives goods or labour and expects to be repaid immediately of the same value.  Minimum amount of trust so can involve strangers.

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Traditional Societies – reciprocity exchange: !Kun

iKung – bushmen of Africa.  Foraging society. Kung have a nomadic culture so material wealth is impractical so what is kept is what is needed. Material possessions are often provided by men for use by women, such as tanned skins for carrying sacks, digging sticks, mortar and pestle, sinew and shoes. 

There is a division of labour:  Women and children gather foods such as mongongo nuts and food from the many available plants in the area, men's primary responsibility is to bring in meat.  80% of their diet is vegetables.In this culture a large focus is on reciprocity and sharing of resources. Since game is not plentiful and sometimes hunters must travel great distances to find food, meat is usually sparse in the community. Within the village, any meat brought in by a successful hunter is shared fairly among the group.

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Trobriand islanders- Kula ring

Malinowski- Throughout New Guinea. Movement of material goods expresses relationships between people. Circulation of armbands and necklaces made of local shells amongst group of islands. Necklaces travel in one direction and armbands in another. Handed over in a ceremonial fashion and the custom is that they stay only for a limited amount of time in one place before they must be passed on. In this way, people maintain contact, and other more mundance exchanges of food and daily goods follow in their wake. 

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Mauss: The Gift

It analyzes the economic practices of various so-called archaic societies and finds that they have a common central practice centered on reciprocal exchange. In them, he finds evidence contrary to the presumptions of modern Western societies about the history and nature of exchange. He shows that early exchange systems center around the obligations to give, to receive, and, most importantly, to reciprocate. They occur between groups, not individuals, and they are a crucial part of “total phenomena” that work to build not just wealth and alliances but social solidarity because “the gift” pervades all aspects of the society: politics, economics, religion, law, morality, and aesthetics. 

Social life in its various forms is based on exchange. An individual may refuse a "free-gift" if they have no interest in a relationship. Whereas in a more isolated society there is relatively less choice. 

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