Accepted paper:

Gifts from commodities, or how to make new friends selling culture


André Vereta Nahoum (Brazilian Centre for Analysis and Planning/University of Sao Paulo)

Paper short abstract:

Are economic transactions subject to different, disputed qualifications? The paper aims at discussing how the Yawanawa devised specific meanings and uses to monetary transactions involving their cultural practices, which they promote in the name of their own individual and collective projects.

Paper long abstract:

The Yawanawa, a population from the Southwest Amazon, have realized the dignities and perils of using monetary transactions involving their cultural practices for their own individual and collective projects. On the one side, they realized they could obtain both material and symbolic resources showing their rituals and other cultural practices to external audiences in their villages or urban venues. These resources are employed to sustain kin and political relations within the village. Moreover, trading their symbols of difference, they promote a wide perception of the worth of their difference in their own community, as well as in the wide national community. In this sense, they may use these transactions for identity claims. On the other side, they realize that market transactions and the resources they bring come with dangers and are associated with different material claims and expectations within the community. Disputes over the ways these transactions are framed became an important part of the conflicts involving the commodification of cultural practices. Taking into consideration these tensions, the Yawanawa leaders resort to native conceptions of alliance to frame their undertakings: the presentation of cultural practices against monetary contributions for external audiences is not intended to obtain immediate profits, but to forge alliances that will provide them with a continuous flow of gifts and support in political claims. In this sense, not only the Yawanawa challenge the analytical boundaries separating domestic, community (political) and market economies by instrumentally using monetary resources to strengthen kin relations and political allegiances, but also the divisions between gifts and commodities, market partners and friends.

panel P107
Forms of government and everyday economic practices: ethnography and comparison