A Handbook of Economic Anthropology
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A Handbook of Economic Anthropology

Edited by James G. Carrier

This unique Handbook contains substantial and invaluable summary discussions of work on economic processes and issues, and on the relationship between economic and non-economic areas of life. Furthermore it describes conceptual orientations that are important among economic anthropologists, and presents summaries of key issues in the anthropological study of economic life in different regions of the world. Its scope and accessibility make it useful both to those who are interested in a particular topic and to those who want to see the breadth and fruitfulness of an anthropological study of economics.
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Chapter 30: South America

Terry Roopnaraine


Terry Roopnaraine High up the Igarapé Onça two young men with their two young wives, each with two children hardly more than toddlers, had settled by themselves well away from the large villages. Each man had married the other’s sister. They lived in one oblong earth-floored house, a separate hearth at each end. I arrived to visit and hung my hammock with the man I knew better. In the morning both men went to hunt. Both got a single peccary. Both hearths cooked up a stew. Our end had its meal ready first, and as we began to eat a child from this end was sent with a calabash of stew to the other end. This was deposited in the pot cooking at that hearth. Later, as we at our end lolled in our hammocks, a child came from the other end with a calabash of their stew which was taken by the woman at this end and put into her pot. Nothing was said. The exchange wasn’t, of course, an ‘economic’ act which distributed scarce resources. It was a moral act, expressing the obligations of the relationship the people were in. (Campbell 1995: 144) The economic anthropology of South America is ethnographically and theoretically diverse. It will therefore be useful to begin by specifying the geographical reach of this chapter. Here, for the sake of both space and breadth of available material, we shall concentrate on continental South America, and not attempt to do justice to the considerable...

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