» Born May 10, 1872, Epinal, France » Died Feb. 10, 1950, Paris » French Sociologist and Anthropologist ˃Father of French anthropology
» Ethnology: Comparative and analytical study of cultures (cultural anthropology)cultural anthropology » Views on theory and method of ethnology influenced: » Claude Levi-Strauss » A.R. Radcliffe-Brown » E.E. Evans-Pritchard » Melville J. Herskovits
» Mauss: Nephew of sociologist Emile Durkheim ˃Contributed to his intellectual formation ˃Mauss assisted in preparation of a number of works, notably “Suicide”. » Mauss assisted, and eventually succeeded, Durkheim as editor “The Sociological Year”
» 1902--Began as professor of primitive religion at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (“Practical School of Higher Studies”), Paris. » Founder of Ethnology Institute of the University of Paris (1925) » Encyclopedic mind: Exceptional ethnographic and linguistic knowledge » A political activist, aligned himself with socialist leader Jean Jaurès
Three fields of obligation: to give, to receive and to repay Gifts, according to Mauss, create relationships not only between individuals but between groups, relationships which take the form of total “prestations” Marcel Mauss 1925: The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies
Prestation More than simple exchange Also includes reciprocity and obligations ‘Total social phenomenon’ It is not individuals but collectives that impose obligations of exchange and contract upon each other What is exchanged is not solely property and wealth
» Studied forms of exchange: ˃Melanesia ˃Polynesia ˃Northwestern North America Explored: Religious Legal Economic Mythological Aspects of: Giving Receiving Repaying
» Example: Incest taboo is a rule of reciprocity ˃Rather than biological fact about gene pools » “The sole function of the incest taboo is not to forbid; it is set in place to ensure and found an exchange…” » Exchange creates systems of communication
In order for social relationships to exist, we must exchange something … the communicative exchange of language, the economic and/or ceremonial exchange of goods or the exchange of spouses Exchange is important for the establishment and maintenance of social relationships “If Friends make gifts, Gifts Make Friends” Marcel Mauss
The Potlatch A form of ceremonial exchange of gifts employed by indigenous groups on NW coast of British Columbia Tlingit Haida Tsimshian Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw))
A large potlatch held in 1921 was said to take 17 years of preparation A modern day potlatch may take about a year to prepare and cost $10,000. Because of all the gifts, a traditional potlatch took years to prepare
Held in connection with events in the life cycle--Initiations, marriages, house building, funerals Extravagant event: Large amounts of food Gifts such as masks and art work made by the host as gifts for the guests POTLATCH: Means ‘to feed’ or ‘to consume’
Social Significance The potlatch is a system of gift exchange--- material goods are exchanged for social recognition and power Examples: In return for giving away food and wealth they get recognition of their status and that of their lineage. Marriages for one’s children are only won during the potlatch Potlatches become very competitive Aspiring leaders use competitive potlatching to move up the system.
What do we have to know to be able to understand those meanings attributed to these gifts? · Class · Social mobility · Matrimony · Patronage · Employment · Issues of style · Conventions of gift-giving Gift Exchange does not operate according to market laws, but the social rules of power, symbol, convention, etiquette, ritual, role and status.
4/2 WHAT IS A GIFT? »What kinds of gifts are there? »To whom do we give gifts? »When do we give gifts? »How do we give gifts? »Why do we give gifts?
» Are there bonds of obligation? »Is there competitiveness involved in gift giving? »How do we feel when we haven’t received a gift of at least equal value? »What if the gift returned is of higher value? »What are the consequences of not reciprocating?
» Never did fieldwork » Influenced French sociologists, philosophers, and psychologists toward ethnology » Strengthened link between psychology and anthropology
» History organizes data in relation to conscious expressions of social life » Anthropology examines the unconscious foundations of social life » As soon as various aspects of social life— economic, linguistic, etc.—are expressed as relationships » Anthropology will become a general theory of relationships