Gifts, Exchange and Reciprocity

  • Joy Hendry


With all the complexity of possibility discussed in the last chapter, an anthropologist arriving in a society to make a study might well feel daunted at the task ahead. Where to start? This is a pertinent question and many students worry a great deal about it before they leave for fieldwork. In practice, once they arrive and settle in, there are so many details of daily life to be seen to that the work just seems to take on a pace of its own. In a strange situation, one must first of all learn to cope with very basic needs — eating, of course, but also cooking, bathing, laundry, disposing of rubbish — all these things are highly relevant to an ethnographer, as we have seen, and for the participant observer, the work is begun.


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  1. Baumann, Gerd (1992) ‘Ritual implicates others: rereading Durkheim in a plural society’, in D. de Coppet, Understanding Rituals (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
  2. Chagnon, Napoleon (1993) Yanomamö: The Fierce People (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston).Google Scholar
  3. Hendry, Joy (1993) Wrapping Culture: Politeness, Presentation and Power in Japan and Other Societies (Oxford: Clarendon).Google Scholar
  4. Malinowski, Bronislaw (1922)Argonauts of the Western Pacific (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul).Google Scholar
  5. Mauss, Marcel (1970) The Gift, trans. I. Cunnison (London: Cohen & West).Google Scholar
  6. Parry, Jonathan (1986) The gift, the Indian gift and “the Indian gift” ’,Man, 21: 453–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Raheja, Gloria, G. (1988) The Poison in the Gift (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
  8. Sahlins, Marshall (1974) ‘On the Sociology of Primitive Exchange’, in Michael Banton (ed.),The Relevance of Models in Social Anthropology (London: Tavistock).Google Scholar
  9. Thomas, Nicholas (1991) Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).Google Scholar
  10. Veblen, Thorstein (1899) The Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: Macmillan).Google Scholar
  11. Weiner, Annette, B. (1992) Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-While-Giving(Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford: University of California Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Hendry, Joy (1995) ‘The Ritual of the Revolving Towel’, in Jan van Bremen and D. P. Martinez (eds), Ceremony and Ritual in Japan (London: Routledge), pp. 210–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Parry, J. and M. Bloch (1989) Money and the Morality of Exchange (Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Riches, D. (1975) ‘Cash, Credit and Gambling in a Modern Eskimo Economy: speculations on origins of spheres of economic exchange’, Man, 10: 21–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar


  1. The Feast (Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon, 1970) is a classic 28-minute film, a combination of stills with explanation, and moving pictures without, about exchange of goods, feasts and warfare among the Yanomamö people of the Venezuelan–Brazilian borderlands.Google Scholar
  2. The Kawelka: Ongka’s Big Moka (Charlie Nairn and Andrew Strathern, 1974) is a Granada ‘Disappearing World’ documentary about assembling pigs and other goods for a feast which forms part of a long-term exchange system among the Kawelka of New Guinea.Google Scholar
  3. Trobriand Cricket (Gary Kildea and Jerry Leach, 1975) is an amusing film about the introduction and adaptation of cricket to these same people.Google Scholar
  4. The Trobriand Islanders (David Wasan, 1990), a ‘Disappearing World’ film, made with the help of anthropologist Annette Weiner, focuses on the female exchanges which complement the more famous kula practises. See Off the Verandah (p. 33 above) for more detail about the kula. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Joy Hendry 1999

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  • Joy Hendry

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