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The Kula Exchange Essay

604 words - 3 pages

Brianna Wells
October 15, 2013
Professor Green Mon. /Wed. 3:00-4:15 pm

Exchange is the idea that an item is given in order to receive something in return. The society in which we live in is commercial, we base our exchanges on money and materialistic items for our benefit; whether it is for survival or based upon our simple wants such as things that are usually given as gifts. Other societies, like the Kula tribe of the Trobriand Archipelago Islands, believe in the idea of gift giving not for trade or a system of bartering, but for the natural well-being of their society. They use it as a way to regulate their society.
The Kula tribe of the Archipelagoes Islands participates in a system known as the “Kula Ring” in which typically the men of this and surrounding societies meet with ...view middle of the document...

In fact, this trade is also a way to distinguish class within the tribes of these islands; the men with the most pieces or permanent pieces are placed in a higher status than others. The men with many armshells must account for each piece.
Many men try hard to be a part of this trade. To enter the ring, one must first have a gift to give. Gifts are able to be bought using things such as pigs, yams, and/or bananas traded with men in return for an armshell or armshells. The trade is hard to enter being that the cycle must continue to circulate and those with little items to trade cannot keep up with the movement. When a gift is given, it is stated as well as understood that in due time the recipient of that gift will return with a gift of equal value to give to the original giver. If the time comes and the recipient does not have a gift of equal value he gives a gift of lesser value in assurance that he will repay him with a gift of equal or greater value as the first gift given.
The Kula exchange is not so different from our own exchange. We trade and barter with money for items that we could use and the people of the Kula Exchange keep the cycle of trinkets going around. When you think of it, it is similar to how we keep the exchange of money going. To the tribes of the Trobriand Islands; pigs, yams, bananas, and other sources of food are not as important as owning armshells and bracelets, and the more armshells and bracelets that one owns the higher up he/she is on society’s totem pole. While the number of armshells and necklaces classify the Kula people, the number of material items which we own reflects the amount of money we have and classifies our class on the totem pole of our society. These material things are important to us, but the money is of greater importance therefore we keep its cycle going.

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