Reconfiguring Exchange Theory: The Maori Hau

Annette B. Weiner

in Inalienable Possessions

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 1992 | ISBN: 9780520076037
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520911802 | DOI:
Reconfiguring Exchange Theory: The Maori Hau

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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

Chapter.  8933 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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