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Inalienable Possessions$
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Annette Weiner

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780520076037

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520076037.001.0001

Reconfiguring Exchange Theory: The Maori Hau

Chapter:
(p.44) Chapter 2 Reconfiguring Exchange Theory: The Maori Hau
Source:
Inalienable Possessions
Author(s):

Annette B. Weiner

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520076037.003.0003

This chapter takes Marcel Mauss's The Gift and reanalyzes the most controversial theoretical text on “primitive” exchange and the Maori ethnography that provided Mauss with the answer to the problem of why a gift given elicits a return. Although Lévi-Strauss believes that Mauss's ethnographic entanglement in the Maori point of view limited his ability to develop a structural model of exchange, it is precisely the dense Maori ethnographic descriptions which reveal the priority that the Maori themselves accord inalienable possessions. Women's production of cloth, some of which becomes inalienable because it is imbued with mana, the procreative power that women acquire, is central to these priorities. The guardianship of inalienable possessions such as these transforms difference into rank.

Keywords:   Marcel Mauss, primitive exchange, Maori ethnography, gift

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