Exchange, reciprocity and social dualism according to the Kaingang of Southern Brazil
Article [Version of Record]
Is part ofCosmos : The journal of the traditional cosmological society ; vol. 26, p. 103-126
The nature of dual social organization and the role of reciprocity have been at the heart of anthropological research on the Gê and Bororo Indians of Brazil since the 1920s. This paper revisits the different approaches that have been proposed to explain the complex interrelationship existing between dualist ideology as expressed by the Gê themselves, the great variety of reciprocal practices associated with this ideology and the role of reciprocity as a unifying and explanatory principle. Using data collected among the Kaingang of Southern Brazil, it re-examines the role of social exchange and reciprocity in the ritual context of Kikikoia , a second funeral ritual. Kaingang’s conceptions of reciprocal services and partnership are not adequately rendered by our anthropological concepts of gift, exchange, dialectical society, or process of social (re)production. The author argues that while it is true that these concepts are used as general implicit principles realized in practices by the social actors and the social system, and made explicit by the observer, partnership is explicit in Kaingang practices where the emphasis is put on the asymmetrical and complementary relationship of partners of opposite moieties defined as parts of a social whole. More precisely, according to the Kaingang, social life is not based on exchange as such (as an implicit principle) but on the explicit sociological institution of partnership between asymmetric and complementary classes emerging of a pre-existing totality. Accordingly, exchange and reciprocity are not an unconscious given nor a function of dual organization but something instituted in the mythic past by the action of some ancestral culture-heroes.