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Valeri, V. Buying Women but Not Selling Them Gift and Commodity Exchange in Huaulu Alliance, Man, New Series, Vol. 29, No. 1. (Mar. 1994), Pp. 1-26 - Image

Valeri, V. Buying Women but Not Selling Them Gift and Commodity Exchange in Huaulu Alliance, Man, New Series, Vol. 29, No. 1. (Mar. 1994), Pp. 1-26 - Image

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Buying Women But Not Selling Them: Gift and Commodity Exchange in HuauluAlliance
Valerio Valeri
 Man
, New Series, Vol. 29, No. 1. (Mar., 1994), pp. 1-26.
 Man
is currently published by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/about/terms.html. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtainedprior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content inthe JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/journals/rai.html.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.The JSTOR Archive is a trusted digital repository providing for long-term preservation and access to leading academic journals and scholarly literature from around the world. The Archive is supported by libraries, scholarly societies, publishers,and foundations. It is an initiative of JSTOR, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to help the scholarly community takeadvantage of advances in technology. For more information regarding JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.http://www.jstor.orgMon Jan 14 12:28:13 2008
 
BUYING WOMEN BUT NOT SELLING THEM: GIFT AND COMMODITY EXCHANGE IN HUAULU ALLIANCE 
University
of
Chicago
The Huaulu people of Seram (Eastern Indonesia) say that they 'buy' their wives and thatthese have a 'price' and are 'costly'. Yet they do not say that they 'sell' their sisters or daughtersto other men. On the contrary, they imply that they give them away as gifts. References tothe idiom of commodity exchange, however incomplete, cannot be explained away as 'meta-phoric', since an equivalent of the 'price' given for the woman must be returned to thewife-takers by the wife-givers in order to sustain their claim that she is given as a gift ratherthan sold. The argument of the article, then, is that marriage exchanges have a dialecticalstructure: they begin as commodity transactions (rights in a woman are exchanged for theirequivalents in valuables) but end as gifts by negating the initial payment with an equivalentcounterpayment. They cannot, therefore, be defined as either 'gift' or 'commodity' exchangesin an absolute, detemporalized sense. Their reference to two opposed forms of give-and-takeis ultimately explained by the coexistence of the contradictory characters of 'otherness' (para-digmatically associated with commodity exchange) and 'non-otherness' (paradigmaticallyassociated with the gift) in alliance.
The Huaulu people of Seram refer to some of their affinal transactions,particularly those that are associated with the transfer of women, with ex-pressions borrowed from the sphere of commerce. What the anthropologistis taught modestly to call 'bridewealth', they crudely call mulua heliam 'theprice of the woman'. What he is careful to name the 'prestation' of 'marriagegifts', they name without qualms 'buying the woman' (ita sahe muluam).
As
ifthis were not enough, they shamelessly compare the price of differentwomen and decry the 'priceyness' (heline) of some. Furthermore, the cere-monial objects used to 'buy' women may also be used to buy commoditiesof every sort, interchangeably with cash. Nevertheless, if women are said tobe bought, they are not said to be sold, since the expression i alaheli muluem('they sell women') is never used, or only as an insult thrown at the wife-givers. And contrary to commercial transactions, affinal ones are not completedby the exchange of a woman for the valuables that constitute her 'price'.They require a counterprestation equivalent to that price in most cases.We are thus faced with a series of paradoxes. The Huaulu buy theirwomen and yet they do not sell them. Husbands say that they pay a heavy
Man(N.S.)
29,
1-26
 
2
VALERIO VALERI
price for them, and yet the applicability of the notion of price seems negatedby the idea that wife-givers owe their wife-takers an equivalent of the valu-ables given for the bride. On the one hand we seem to have an ideal ofmutual gift-giving between affines, on the other hand there is legitimate talkof buying and dark accusations of selling. The purpose of this article is toinvestigate these paradoxes and what seems to underlie them all: the complexrelationship
-
practical and ideological
-
between what can provisionally becalled commodity and non-commodity exchanges in the social environmentof the Huau1u.l I tended to underplay these paradoxes in previous publica-tions, based on my earlier fieldwork in 1971-3 (Valeri 1975-6; 1980). Morerecent fieldwork (in 1985, 1986 and 1988), and the rethinking that went withit, have forced me to face the paradoxes. This article is a succinct summaryof some of the results of that rethinking.But first some background information about the H~aulu.~his smallgroup of people (168 on
23
May 1988) lives in a densely forested and moun-tainous inland area of the island of Seram. It is divided into units called ipa(plural, ipae) which are aligned, in ways too complex to detail here, into fourlarge sets also called ipa. Alliance is primarily contracted among the ipae inthe former sense, which is also the normal one. One such ipa is constitutedby a core of patrilineally related people around whom cluster other people,who are related to them through affinal, uterine or adoptive links (formerlyalso through slavery). In practice, the continuity of the ipa's core may beensured by non-agnates -who are remembered
as
such. The commitment tolineage continuity is thus not as strong
as
the commitment to the continuityof the named
-
and propertied
-
group to which the lineage should corre-spond. Such groups are usually called 'houses' in ethnographic reports fromEastern Indonesia (Fox 1980; Errington 1990; Boon 1990: 96 sqq.; McKin-non 1991). With some misgivings,
I
follow this usage in rendering ipa as'h~use'.~n several respects Huaulu 'houses' follow an ideal of autonomy (cf:Valeri 1990), but co-operate in various ritual and economic activities. Mostimportantly in the Huaulu view, they depend on one another for reproduc-tion. Each house has a number of traditional wife-givers (hahamana) andwife-takers (hahapina). These are usually Huaulu, but some are in neigh-bouring communities which share similar marriage practices. Thedirectionality of alliance should never be reversed. This amounts to saylngthat men marry their mother's brothers' daughters and women their father'ssisters' sons (both categories are referred to as kaejni).The economic life of the Huaulu is based on the exploitation of sago,hunting, gathering, riverine fishing and some horticulture and arboriculture.In recent years, an increasing number of Huaulu have settled on the northcoast of Seram so that their children can attend school, and have becomeinvolved in the cash economy The world of commerce has never beenforeign to the Huaulu, however. Directly or indirectly, it has marked theirhistory as inhabitants of one of the Moluccas
-
the spice islands which wereone of the main participants in Asian trade for centuries.
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