Anthropology: Reciprocity Sample Essay.
Type of paper: questions & answers
Format or citation style: MLA
Deadline: 6 hours
JOURNAL: PART 2:
* In order to answer the the following question you need to look at the attached file.
Modes of exchange reflective log
When used as a means to change the nature of a social relationship, reciprocity is a form of nonverbal communication.
1) What is it about communicating with goods that makes it sometimes preferable to communicating with words?
2) Businesses, fellow students, and even friends who want something out of you sometimes try to make you indebted to them with a small preliminary gift. Those who have done you a favor sometimes ask you for something in return. Discuss such uses of reciprocity in ordinary social life, as with your roommates, classmates, and friends.
3) Imagine that this year, for Christmas, you give nothing to anybody, without an explanation as to why you’re only receiving gifts and not giving them. What do you think would happen?
A potlatch is a gift-giving feast practiced by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and the United States, among whom it is traditionally the primary economic system. A potlatch was held on the occasion of births, deaths, adoptions, weddings, and other major events. Typically the potlatch was practiced more in the winter seasons as historically the warmer months were for procuring wealth for the family, clan, or village, then coming home and sharing that with neighbors and friends. The event was hosted by a numaym, or ‘House’, in Kwakwaka’wakw culture. A numaym had about one hundred members and several would be grouped together into a tribe. The House drew its identity from its ancestral founder, usually a mythical animal who descended to earth and removed his animal mask, thus becoming human. The mask became a family heirloom passed from father to son along with the name of the ancestor himself. This made him the leader of the numaym, considered the living incarnation of the founder.
Only aristocrats could host a potlatch. The potlatch was the occasion on which titles associated with masks and other objects were “fastened on” to a new office holder. Two kinds of titles were transferred on these occasions. Firstly, each numaym had a number of named positions of ranked “seats” (which gave them a seat at potlatches) transferred within itself. These ranked titles granted rights to hunting, fishing and berrying territories. Secondly, there were a number of titles that would be passed between numayma, usually to in-laws, which included feast names that gave one a role in the Winter Ceremonial. Aristocrats felt safe giving these titles to their out-marrying daughter’s children because this daughter and her children would later be rejoined with her natal numaym and the titles returned with them. Any one individual might have several “seats” which allowed them to sit, in rank order, according to their title, as the host displayed and distributed wealth and made speeches. Besides the transfer of titles at a potlatch, the event was given “weight” by the distribution of other less important objects such as Chilkat blankets, animal skins (later Hudson Bay blankets) and coppers. It is the distribution of large numbers of Hudson Bay blankets, and the destruction of valued coppers that first drew government attention (and censure) to the potlatch.
Dorothy Johansen describes the dynamic: “In the potlatch, the host in effect challenged a guest chieftain to exceed him in his ‘power’ to give away or to destroy goods. If the guest did not return 100 percent on the gifts received and destroy even more wealth in a bigger and better bonfire, he and his people lost face and so his ‘power’ was diminished.” Hierarchical relations within and between clans, villages, and nations, were observed and reinforced through the distribution or sometimes destruction of wealth, dance performances, and other ceremonies. The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. The hosts demonstrate their wealth and prominence through giving away goods.
Question 1: Why communicating with goods is preferable to communicating with words
Exchange of goods is preferable to communicating with words since it offers the reality behind a given action. Whereas words could be deceptive, actions are in most cases show the genuineness of a given deed. An example is the actions done by the Bushmen in the Kalahari (Borshay 34). In this case, the author (white) uses the ox (slaughtered on Christmas day) as a means of being harmonious with the Bushmen. Further, goods such as cattle are exchanged to reinforce hierarchical relations within and between clans or villages whereby prominence in giving away goods is a measure of wealth or ‘power’ like is the case with the potlatch.
Question 2: uses of reciprocity in ordinary social life
Reciprocity is applicable in building of relationships. A person wanting to date another will opt to express him/herself using a gift. An example is the potlatch in which those with wealth exchange goods or give goods to the poor so as to show unity. Also they exchange goods so as to acquire spouses during marriages. People exchange gifts on a daily gifts expecting returns from the receiving party; physical or psychological returns.
Question 3: gift exchange during Christmas
Receiving and not giving gifts during Christmas is taken as an act of selfishness or stinginess as is the case with the author (Borshay 31-34) and the Bushmen. The author was considered a miser since he did not give anything to the people in the society even during Christmas. Based on these happenings receiving gifts during Christmas without giving will only cause a drift in relationship with people since with time people will see the trend in ones behavior of selfishness and will consequently stop giving the ‘selfish’ person. In other words, people will isolate themselves from the ‘selfish’ person during such events as Christmas.
Borshay, Richard Lee. “Eating Christmas In The Kalahari”. (1969): 31-34. Web. 10 July 2016.