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Making Things BetterA Workbook on Ritual, Cultural Values, and Environmental Behavior$
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A. David Napier

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199969357

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199969357.001.0001

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Exchange and Value

Exchange and Value

Chapter:
(p.84) Chapter 3 Exchange and Value
Source:
Making Things Better
Author(s):

A. David Napier

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199969357.003.0010

This chapter considers the evolving nature of cultural identity and how identity is transformed through the exchange of objects and beliefs across cultures. What can we learn about the relationship of capital accumulation to the dissolution of traditional symbolic networks and the moral reciprocities that are central to ritual? This argument is not Marxian, nor does it focus on free markets. Instead, it focuses on how dissolving symbolic networks allows for the random accumulation of hidden, uncommitted, financial wealth. Two cases are examined. The first involves the early collecting practice of North American museums interested in Native America art and artifacts. The second looks at how the meanings of objects are transformed by the imposition of missionary beliefs on indigenous practices in Melanesia. Both cases offer internal and external contestation over objects that possess, or once possessed, great symbolic power. Finally, the chapter concludes with a more general consideration of how the redefining of inalienable wealth makes possible the appropriation and neutralization of indigenous forms of religious meaning.

Keywords:   Economics, Law, Repatriation, Exchange, Cultural mediation, Indigenous art, Cargo cults

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