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As you say the proposals we invent tools for the bricoleur to be able to play around with the world. It is a daunting task to interpret the shadows on the wall.
One can look at the structure and through the structure try to interpret the difference between cultures. As you write: every language and culture has its own modalities of gift exchange and these are endlessly different
As in the pig example Izabel gave this would rather be thought of a vengeance than an honest thank you in Berlin. I would also think that somebody in the business district of Manila, would be less overwhelmed than a farmer. I remember an old colleague of mine whose daughters got strange gifts like goats from their neighbour. It wasn't really appreciated. Especially after all the escapes and the tulips were gone.
To study the underlying structural similarities is good, but it remains a trampoline to be able to jump higher into the sphere of symbols and meaning. As you say: how they're weighted, combined, nuanced, and articulated.
Either/or-thinking is of course intellectually easier, and emphasizing that all these possibilities are simultaneously present can be more rewarding. But can the agility with the tool be kept when one tries to use it for too many tasks?
I read the Gift many years ago. What I liked about it was the psychological aspect Mauss hinted at. I remember discussing it with colleagues of mine, who didn't study anthropology, but immediately grasped that aspect. We discussed for example why the foreign cashier said please when they gave back the change. And Swedish cashier said thank you. The foreign way seemed more logical. Is it in Sweden a way to show that a cashier is hierarchically on a lower level in society?
I think it's useful as an intervention in how we think about - well, you can call it the human condition, if you like - but maybe even better, one can think of it as potentialities. Understanding the range of economic systems that have existed also expands, or at least helps to focus, our conceptions of those that could exist. This is a role others look to anthropologists to fill all the time - since we alone have access to the full range of human political, economic, social experience - but anthropologists often seem extremely reluctant to take up. Still, since no one else can do it, isn't this something of a responsibility for us - not as individuals, I'm not arguing that, but certainly, as a discipline?
how to draw upon the gift(s) -even acknowledging its heterogeneity- in explicative terms when dealing with processual approach to imagination and creation.
When logging and electricity reached their forest, the same forest-dwellers quickly adapted to technology and environmental changes. They now needed to produce surplus they could refrigerate and sell to loggers. Since logging was destroying their food sources, like birds, honey, ants' eggs, they had to overproduce, engage in exchange and maximize profit, and resort to territoriality and property-- what surrounded them were theirs. The loggers also introduced money, trade, and paid labor. The forest-dwellers were my people. It was not communism that started the society where I used to physically belong, but reciprocity and exchange.