Buying Women But Not Selling Them: Gift and Commodity Exchange in Huaulu Alliance Valerio Valeri Man

, New Series, Vol. 29, No. 1. (Mar., 1994), pp. 1-26.
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The Huaulu people of Seram (Eastern Indonesia) say that they 'buy' their wives and that these have a 'price' and are 'costly'. Yet they do not say that they 'sell' their sisters or daughters to other men. O n the contrary, they imply that they give them away as gifts. References to the idiom of commodity exchange, however incomplete, cannot be explained away as 'metaphoric', since an equivalent of the 'price' given for the woman must be returned to the wife-takers by the wife-givers in order to sustain their claim that she is given as a gift rather than sold. The argument of the article, then, is that marriage exchanges have a dialectical structure: they begin as commodity transactions (rights in a woman are exchanged for their equivalents in valuables) but end as gifts by negating the initial payment with an equivalent counterpayment. They cannot, therefore, be defined as either 'gift' or 'commodity' exchanges in an absolute, detemporalized sense. Their reference to two opposed forms of give-and-take is ultimately explained by the coexistence of the contradictory characters of 'otherness' (paradigmatically associated with commodity exchange) and 'non-otherness' (paradigmatically associated 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 expressions borrowed from the sphere of commerce. What the anthropologist is taught modestly to call 'bridewealth', they crudely call mulua heliam 'the price of the woman'. What he is careful to name the 'prestation' of 'marriage gifts', they name without qualms 'buying the woman' (ita sahe muluam). As if this were not enough, they shamelessly compare the price of different women and decry the 'priceyness' (heline) of some. Furthermore, the ceremonial objects used to 'buy' women may also be used to buy commodities of every sort, interchangeably with cash. Nevertheless, if women are said to be 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 wifegivers. And contrary to commercial transactions, affinal ones are not completed by 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 their women and yet they do not sell them. Husbands say that they pay a heavy

Man (N.S.) 29, 1-26



price for them, and yet the applicability of the notion of price seems negated by the idea that wife-givers owe their wife-takers an equivalent of the valuables given for the bride. O n the one hand we seem to have an ideal of mutual gift-giving between affines, on the other hand there is legitimate talk of buying and dark accusations of selling. The purpose of this article is to investigate these paradoxes and what seems to underlie them all: the complex relationship - practical and ideological - between what can provisionally be called commodity and non-commodity exchanges in the social environment of the Huau1u.l I tended to underplay these paradoxes in previous publications, based on my earlier fieldwork in 1971-3 (Valeri 1975-6; 1980). More recent fieldwork (in 1985, 1986 and 1988), and the rethinking that went with it, have forced me to face the paradoxes. This article is a succinct summary of some of the results of that rethinking. But first some background information about the H ~ a u l u This small .~ group of people (168 on 23 May 1988) lives in a densely forested and mountainous 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 four large sets also called ipa. Alliance is primarily contracted among the ipae in the former sense, which is also the normal one. One such ipa is constituted by a core of patrilineally related people around whom cluster other people, who are related to them through affinal, uterine or adoptive links (formerly also through slavery). In practice, the continuity of the ipa's core may be ensured by non-agnates -who are remembered as such. The commitment to lineage continuity is thus not as strong as the commitment to the continuity of the named - and propertied - group to which the lineage should correspond. Such groups are usually called 'houses' in ethnographic reports from Eastern Indonesia (Fox 1980; Errington 1990; Boon 1990: 96 sqq.; McKinnon 1991). With some misgivings, I follow this usage in rendering ipa as ' h ~ u s e ' In several respects Huaulu 'houses' follow an ideal of autonomy (cf: .~ Valeri 1990), but co-operate in various ritual and economic activities. Most importantly in the Huaulu view, they depend on one another for reproduction. Each house has a number of traditional wife-givers (hahamana) and wife-takers (hahapina). These are usually Huaulu, but some are in neighbouring communities which share similar marriage practices. The directionality of alliance should never be reversed. This amounts to saylng that men marry their mother's brothers' daughters and women their father's sisters' 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 north coast of Seram so that their children can attend school, and have become involved in the cash economy The world of commerce has never been foreign to the Huaulu, however. Directly or indirectly, it has marked their history as inhabitants of one of the Moluccas - the spice islands which were one of the main participants in Asian trade for centuries. A testimonial to this



involvement is the fact that the Huaulu use imported valuables (mostly antique porcelain plates from mainland Asia and Conus armshells 'from Irian'4) for their ceremonial payments - and especially for 'buying' their wives. The reproduction of the Huaulu houses is thus in some way dependent on objects that s i g n i ~ external trade and which can still revert to such trade.

Purchase and prestation
Certain attempts to revive it notwithstanding (e.g. Gray 1960), the idea that affinal payments are commercial transactions - that they can be viewed as the buying and selling of wives (or of husbands, for that matter) - has been rejected by mainstream anthropology at least since the famous controversy that took place in Man from 1929 to 1931 (Torday 1929; Raglan 1931; EvansPritchard 1931; 1934). Indeed, a number of fundamental differences between the transfer of women in marriage and the sale of commodities has been frequently ~ o i n t e d out. Perhaps the most important is that a woman (like any other person who is not a slave) cannot be further alienated by the person or group that acquires her.5 She is given to her husband or her husband's group alone and thus she is given to be kept or to be returned, but not to be given away to a third party6 The right to give her away remains with her natal group. If she remarries, her divorced husband may be compensated, but he may not himself transfer her to her new husband. Such transfer, in any case, would require the consent of her natal group. This limitation on the proprietary rights acquired by the wife-taker correlates with a more generic difference between the transfer of a woman in marriage and the sale: 'It is characteristic of a transaction of purchase and sale that once it has been completed it leaves behind no obligations on either the buyer or the seller' (Radcliffe-Brown 1950: 52). Another difference between bridewealth and purchase has been much insisted upon by Uvi-Strauss, since it is the necessary correlate of his theory of exogamy as the converse of a positive injunction to exchange women. In a purchase, the equivalent given for a thing of one lund may be exchanged for a thing of another kind, or it may be consumed. But the equivalent given for a woman may only be converted into another woman and is not usually consumed, except, at times, for sacrificial purposes (Uvi-Strauss 1967: 27). In other words, bridewealth does not afford value conversion, but is only a device for realizing the delayed exchange of women above and beyond its 'elementary' form (in Ltvi-Strauss7s sense). Bridewealth is thus the establishment of a credit that can only be redeemed by the acquisition of another woman (Uvi-Strauss 1967: 535-6, 538, 540-1; cf. Meillassoux 1975: 102-3, 105). Another important difference between purchase and marriage exchanges is that the latter are often bilateral (Radcliffe-Brown 1950: 52). In extreme cases, an equivalent of the entire prestation is returned by its recipients - the wife-givers. Unless such return is interpreted as a bonus or discount (in



which case we should be prepared to admit instances of 100 per cent. discount), it makes it impossible to speak of 'sale'. O n the contrary, it seems to call for a view of marriage payments in which each side effects the establishment of a bilateral relation (as affinity always is) through a bilateral transfer of valuables that stand for both parties and their relations (cf Valeri 1975-6; 1980; M c l n n o n 1991). Given all these - and other - differences, it would seem impossible to suppose that when the Huaulu and other peoples use the same terms to refer both to the purchase of a commodity and to bridewealth, they use them in the same sense. Indeed they do not - but at the same time they clearly imply that some connexion between their senses exists. And, I would argue, they are not wholly wrong in this. For the contrasts between 'purchase' and affinal prestations that I have mentioned above are not all equally strong. For instance, it is not true in Huaulu, and - as LCvi-Strauss himself must recognize - in many other societies, that the wealth given in exchange for a woman may only be employed to obtain another woman. It may, in fact, be converted into other objects. This inevitably contributes to a certain overlapping between the conceptual status of women and that of commodities and to giving a monetary character, however embryonic, to the valuables used in affinal transaction^.^ Indeed, even on a priori grounds it seems obvious, as Meillassoux (1975: 110-11) has pointed out, that bridewealth could function exclusively as the sign of a credit on another woman only if it were destroyed as soon as it was redeemed. In other words: I give a woman, I obtain tokens that allow me to obtain another woman in exchange. At this point the delayed exchange has been completed; thus if the tokens only had the function of making the delayed exchange possible, they would indeed have to be destroyed. But since they rarely - if ever - are, the potential for their extramarital use always exists. Even if the potential is not realized, its presence colours bridewealth with hues more complex than those of mere reciprocity In sum, the contrast identified by Ltvi-Strauss is an ideal limit never fully realized, rather than an empirical one. Its realization is never guaranteed but is the result of a constantly renewed effort to keep commodity transactions and affinal ones strictly separate. The effort must be particularly strong in those societies, such as those of Eastern Indonesia, where the valuables used to acquire women were often obtained by selling people into slavery and could always be used to obtain slaves. As Barnes has noted, this produced an 'uncomfortable similarity between exchanging a slave for bridewealth and bridewealth for a wife' (Barnes 1980: 119; cf Cornaroff 1980: 41).8 This similarity continues Barnes, prompts people commonly and spontaneously to deny 'that bridewealth constitutes commercial purchase' (1980: 119). But it does seem to me they protest too much.9 As for the bilateral character of affinal exchanges against the unilateral character of purchase, this is also realized over time, and does not, or does not necessarily, exist from the very beginning of the transaction (cf Bourdieu 1972: 223 sqq.; Mauss 1978: 199). In other words, as soon as the temporal



dimension is taken into account, the bilateral transaction appears less bilateral and correspondingly its contrast with purchase appears less pronounced. Even the strongest criterion for contrasting purchase and the acquisition of rights in the woman through bridewealth - namely the fact that, contrary to a thing purchased, she cannot be further alienated - loses some of its force as soon as we consider each of these rights in detail. For among them we find one that may in fact be further alienated, namely the right to dispose of her 'blood', as vested in her children. Indeed, the blood received from one's wife-givers is further alienated to one's wife-takers. Part of the wife's value is thus reified as a substance, blood, that is alienable to a third party This is in any case the Huaulu view, and it resembles that of many other Eastern Indonesian peoples who speak of the 'flow of blood' (rather than that of people) across groups (cf. Fox 1980; McKinnon 1991: 110 sqq.).10 In sum, granted that an ultimate conceptual difference exists between purchase and the acquisition of a wife through prestations, a certain amount of overlapping between them may occur in experience. For these two phenomena do not exist, in concrete, as mere realizations of their specific differences, nor are these specific differences all realized at the same time. Rather, several may or may not come into being. A father may or may not employ the valuables he has received for his daughter to purchase something; he may or may not return their equivalents to her husband, and if he does, it may take him such a long time that the full contrast between the marriage prestation and a purchase is not allowed to become apparent. I am arguing, then, that all depends on how the actors analyse complex and ambiguous actions, in which it is not so easy to recognize fully distinct conceptual types. Actions are rarely complete, and thus they rarely coincide with their type. Furthermore, such types are constituted by overlapping traits. As a transfer, not of an object, but of a variety of rights with often divergent exchange properties, the giving of a woman in marriage involves such overlappings almost inevitablyll Thus, far from being distinct from a purchase in every respect, an affinal prestation may have certain traits in common with it and the extent of these common traits may vary in time, as I have indicated. Over time, an action may turn into another, or conversely become more different from it. Therefore, instead of trying immediately to fit the Huaulu descriptive usages about exchange into our preordained and excessively rigid definitions, we should first attempt to situate these usages in the entire spectrum of give and take as the Huaulu conceive and live it. Indeed, the real issue is not whether some definition of purchase which we may give does or does not fit the Huaulu usage of sahe in connexion with marriage payments. The issue is whether some connexion exists between the Huaulu's own conceptualization of commercial exchange and their conceptualization of an aspect or moment of affinal give-and-take.



Give-and- take The phenomenology, terminology and ideology of Huaulu give-and-take are extremely complex. For present purposes, it is sufficient to mention that two basic oppositions are kept in mind by the Huaulu in their transactions: that between people who are lelaki 'other' (or 'different') and people who are lelakisi 'not-other'; and that between perishable and durable objects. People who are 'not-other' are first and foremost members of the same 'house' and of houses in a sibling relationship (ewayem); and secondarily people who form one lasi 'blood', that is, who descend from a single ancestress through the female line. All others are indeed 'other'. Affines are in an ambiguous and variable position between 'other' and 'not-other', as we shall see shortly. Perishables are food and locally manufactured objects of short duration and easy replaceability Durables (wapiem) are imported objects, ancient (porcelain plates, jewellery, armshells) or modern (cloth, store plates, some arm-shells, kitchen implements, and so on).12 Modern objects are directly or indirectly obtained from Chinese shops on the coast or from itinerant pedlarsl3 who venture on the mountains. Ancient objects were also obtained through trade, or from plundering coastal people who traded. They can return to the world of trade through their conversion into cash or modern trade items. Land and trees are in a category apart - but have more in common with wapiem than with perishables. In theory, people who are 'not-other' should never exchange. That is to say, they should never give or receive with the stipulation or even the expectation of a return. Indeed, the closer the relationship between two persons, the more unilateral and the less subject to accounting or even to memorization the give-and-take between them is.14 There is no book-keeping among relatives and thus there can be no true reciprocity15 The justification for giving is neither to make a profit nor to make friends. One gives because one is prompted by feelings which are nothing but obligations turned into sentimental habitus. One gives, that is to say, out of 'compassion' (sayani), 'shame' (mukae) (for not doing the right thing), or because 'one's heart goes to them' (halini ala asie). One gives, also, in order to sop0 ('help') and to avoid titikalu ('rejecting', literally 'turning one's back to') somebody Indeed, the expression sop0 asie pohi 'help them with' is perhaps the most frequently used to refer to a gift. Otherwise, the common expression for 'to give as a gift' is sama - a word that can never be used if the giving goes with the request, or with the customary requirement, of a return. In contrast, people who are 'other' (lelaki), who 'do not know each other' (i mane humanisi), do not by definition 'give gifts' (sama) to each other. The appropriate form of give-and-take between them is the only one that qualifies as exchange proper - that is, giving with the stipulation or at least the expectation of a return and indeed for the sake of it. Concern for the thing lost and the thing gained is more important here than concern for the person to whom one gives and from whom one receives. It is an index of this contrast that while the term sama ('to gve a gift') has no reciprocal, the term



tui (generic 'to give') has one: selui, 'to replace/compensate'. But the most extreme manifestation of the principle of reciprocity and of the principle that one exchanges with strangers more for the sake of the thing to be obtained than for the sake of a relationship is sahepohi alaheli, 'buying and selling'. This Huaulu category covers both what we call 'barter' and what we call 'exchange for money'. It indexes 'lack of knowledge' - that is, the lack of any previous relationship between the parties that may inflect their exchange. Therefore the category also indexes total equality between them with regard to the transaction, and total freedom to engage in it. It goes without saying that this polarity of 'otherness' and 'non-otherness' defines a space occupied by a myriad of intermediate and mixed cases rather than two absolutely separate transactional spheres. More important, and no less obvious, is the fact that the axiomatic equation of each kind of give-andtake with a kind of relationship (or lack thereof) makes a performative use of give-and-take possible. Thus the other may always become non-other by way of a gift. Conversely, when one gives to a non-other in a form appropriate only among others, he turns him into an other - at least in the context of the transaction. In sum, to some extent the form of give-and-take is selffulfilling: it makes the relationship and is not just made by it. There are not only rules, but also - through them - strategies. But the rules and strategies of give-and-take are also determined by the second opposition - that between perishables and durables. Perishables, especially cooked food,16 are given more unilaterally than durables. Perishables are thus more appropriate than durables for giving among people who are 'non-other', or for creating a provisional state of 'non-otherness' among 'others' (as in the case of hospitality). In contrast, the giving of durables is more appropriate among people who are 'other', because it usually requires reciprocation, especially if ceremonial objects such as antique plates (ajzlaem) or armshells (papilem) are involved. It is therefore avoided among non-others or else it is used to transform their relationship, at least provisionally, into one of otherness.l7 Note also that when an item (such as parrots that are captured in large quantities to sell to coastal merchants) is treated mainly as a source of money, as a commercial resource, it becomes neutral with regard to the opposition of otherness and non-otherness. Whatever relationship exists between the parties, such items may legitimately be bought and sold among them. In conclusion, a rough generalization seems possible. The greater the 'otherness' of the parties, and the greater the involvement of durables or of items endowed with mainly commercial value in their transactions, the greater the insistence on reciprocity and compensation. The Huaulu case thus confirms Sahlins's generalization that 'the spirit of exchange swings from disinterested concern for the other party through mutuality to self-interest' (Sahlins 1972: 193). Another important point to retain from the above discussion is that the Huaulu tend to define forms of give-and-take less in terms of the relationship between giver and object given (as for instance in terms of inalienability



and alienability1*), than in terms of the relationship that exists between the parties. 'Buying and selling' is the maximal expression of a relationship of 'otherness', or rather of a lack of relationship - of not 'knowing one another'; 'giving as a gift' (sama) is the maximal expression of 'non-otherness'.lg One gives as a gift only to people who are in important respects not different from oneself or whom one wishes to treat as such; and one gives as a commodity only to people who are treated - temporarily or permanently - as other than oneself20 Afinity and afinal transactions Affinal relations sit uneasily on the discursive and ethical fence that separates 'others' (lelaki) from 'non-others' (lelakisi). The main reason is that marriage is both an index of otherness (by definition one cannot marry those who are lelakisi, 'non-other') and a means of overcoming it. Briefly put, otherness is expressed by the insistence on reciprocity between the parties; the overcoming of otherness is expressed, and indeed effected, by the negation of that reciprocity once it has taken place. This indicates that affinal transactions must be seen as a dialectical process combining the forms of give-and-take that are appropriate among 'others' and those that are appropriate among 'nonothers'. It would be a mistake to view them merely as the expression of a certain fured point on a gradient of structural distance, as in Sahlins's scheme (1972: 219-20, 222-3). For in fact they encompass processually the entire spectrum of give-and-take from one extreme to the other. The initial moment is marked by something more extreme than Sahlins's 'balanced reciprocity'. It is described in terms that imply a comparison with the sale; it is called 'buying the woman', not 'reciprocating the woman'. Descriptions matter, as I have indicated. The idiom of gift is definitely not used at this stage. There is no idea that the wife-giver surrenders a daughter simply out of concern for her suitor, not even when the latter belongs - as is almost invariably the case - to a traditional wife-taking group. Thus there is also no idea that the benefitted party reciprocates with his own gift. No: the description of the transaction implies that the prospective husband must request the woman, and must be prepared to pay a price which is acceptable to the reluctant wife-giver. The latter transfers the woman, or rather certain rights in her, only on condition that such payment b madejrst. Here lies the strongest e similarity with a sale, from the Huaulu point of view. Yet if there is talk of buying, talk of selling is impeded21 by what happens next: having received the price of the woman (or rather, the price of the particular rights in the woman that are ceded at that particular stage), the wife-giver returns an equivalent for it, thereby establishing a posteriori the unilateral, 'gift-like' character of the relationship. The payment is thus negated and yet preserved, since it has been necessary for the husband to disburse it. This simple dialectical structure - insistence on reciprocity followed by its negation through a counterprestation that affirms a posteriori the unilateral character of the prestation of the woman - is found in practically all affinal



prestations, both those that concern the transfer of a woman directly and those that follow from it and are its corollaries. But the degree to whidh the extremes in the dialectical process are reached varies with the nature and context of the prestation. It is particularly the degree to which the initial moment of the process approximates 'buying' (and thus implicitly and tacitly 'selling' as well) that varies. And, very clearly, one reason for the variation is the importance attributed to the thing transferred, and its nature - perishable or durable or reproducing. Limitations of space make it impossible to treat here, however summarily, the whole range of afinal give-and-take. Suffice it to say that at one extreme we find the give-and-take of perishables such as food outside of marriage rituals; at the other extreme we find the transfer of the rights in the reproductive potential of the woman. The formal prestation of raw food from affine to affine (particularly that of certain portions of meat from the wifegivers) requires reciprocation with traditional valuables (plates are given by wife-takers, armshells by wife-givers), but there is no talk of 'buying' (sahe) in this case. For this idiom of 'buying' to be applied, two conditions are necessary: the prestation - material or immaterial - must be of value (and certainly of greater value than raw food); it must be first requested by the recipient, who is invariably the wife-taker. For example, the first haircut of a child must be performed by its mother's brother. The parents formally request this service and reciprocate it with some antique plates, cloth and even some cash. But they are not said to 'buy' the service, for it is of little account. In contrast, the mother's brother's bestowal of the ritual loincloth to a pubescent boy (a very important prestation) is said to be 'bought' and to have a price. The contrast is manifested by the inverse order in which the prestation to the mother's brother is made in the two cases. In the former, itfollows the haircut and thus takes the form of a reciprocation - a gift for a gift. In the second, the mother's brother must be paid before he performs the rite. But in neither case is the wife-takers' payment negotiated. A negotiation is only found in the case of the most important prestation of all: that of a wife. The reason is - to the Huaulu at least - clear.22 A woman is more valuable than any durable because she does more than endure: she reproduces. By giving one of their women to another group the wife-givers give it its existence as a group - that is, its duration over time. And by the same movement they give up the possibility of using her for their own reproduction as a group. This is not a mere hypothetical possibility For the issue is not one of exogamy but one of alliance. The rule of exogamy dictates that one cannot marry a woman from one's own group, but not that one cannot keep her children from an exogamous marriage. Indeed the exogamous, but uxorilocal marriage (kolaupu), with avunculocal affiliation, of one's sister or daughter is frequently resorted to as a device for reproducing one's group. It is alliance rather than exogamy, then, that dictates the transfer of the woman as a source of descent. It is principally as such a source that she is transacted between allied groups.



Alliance is thus predominantly framed in terms of loss and compensation. In giving up a woman as a source of reproduction, her 'masters/owners' (mulua upuem) are never motivated by obligation alone, not even when they stand as traditional wife-givers to the prospective husband. Their sense of interest is implicated. Hence they must be enticed by the offer of durable wealth. They must be offered a compensation which they find acceptable. A 'price' - the bride's equivalent in antique plates (and additionally in store plates, cloth and some other valuables, nowadays including cash) - must therefore be negotiated. But marriage is a complex process which includes different stages, each marked by the transfer of some rights in the woman. Not all these rights are equally important and not all involve her transfer and that of her children to her husband's group. The different rights in the woman are transferred sequentially at different stages of a complex marriage process that may take many years or even a lifetime. Only rarely are these This stages telescoped in a few days of feverish tran~actions.~3 means that the transfer of rights is gradual and that the issues of loss and compensation become more burning at the stage when the woman and her reproductive potential (often already realized in children) is to be fully transferred to her husband'sgroup. his is the most distinctive and mark& stage of the marriage process, and the one whose expectation and realization colour it entirely At the same time, the fact that marriage is a long process and not a single event implies that it is characterized by a whole range of exchange modalities and idioms and cannot be encapsulated in a single type. To illustrate both propositions, let us briefly consider the main stages of the marriage process. All Huaulu men marry, by definition, the daughter of one of their mother's brothers. Because mother's brother and sister's son share the same lasi - the 'blood' par excellence, uterine blood - they are in fact lelakisi, 'nonother'. Through her father, the mother's brother's daughter participates in this blood. Yet she is not said to be of the same 'blood' (lasi) as her father's sister's son, her prospective husband, because they do not have a maternal blood line in common. From this point of view, they are lelaki, 'different'. Yet their difference is not such that it implies hostility What lacks in 'kinship' that is, reified relatedness - is compensated in 'friendship'. Indeed, the marriageable cross-cousins, normally called kaefini, may also be called leta, 'friendd.24 Before marriage, this dimension of friendship, itself the residue of an alliance relationship at the parental generation, is stressed. Kaefini are in a joking relationship (i akariki) with one another and with their respective parents. But if the premiss of most marriages is this 'friendship' with people who are at the borderline of otherness and non-otherness, the actual contracting of marriage implies stressing otherness, since it means starting the process of alliance constitution all over again. This stress on otherness begins to become apparent at the moment in which the female kaefini is formally requested as a bride for her male counterpart. Friendship and easy accessibility come to a stop. O n the contrary, there is a great deal of tension, as the



request may be refused. But the stress on otherness is most visible at the next stage, when the spouses are 'tabooed' (i soko asie). This 'tabooing' refers to making them off limits for all other potential spouses, but also and more importantly to the instauration of very strict taboos between them and all those with whom they had johng relationships until now 'Friendship' is turned into avoidance, and closeness into a distance expressed by reciprocity in transactions. Furthermore, whatever 'blood' existed between certain of the contracting parties before marriage ceases to be relevant. The mother's brother is no longer treated as 'one blood' by the sister's son and vice-versa: both must now view each other just as members of their respective houses, since alliance is between houses and not between individuals and not even categories of people. This dissolution of the initial interpersonal relations into the impersonal relations between houses is made manifest by the joint participation of all their members in the transactions. The creation of otherness and the depersonalization of the relationships involved seem the main purposes of reciprocal exchanges in this stage. The premisses of alliance are thus stressed, but alliance itself is far from being established, since the reproduction of one house by the prestation of a woman's reproductive potential is not yet effected. Indeed, all that the soko asie rite establishes is the man's right to cohabit with the woman, that is, his exclusive sexual access to her and his right to other wifely services such as cooking. In every other respect, the man does not 'own' her and her future children, who remain the property of her father. Rather, he is himself '0wned'~5 by his father-in-law, in whose house he is bound to reside to perform bride-service, and to whose lineage he is now affiliated. Only in the following stage (i tuna muluam, 'they take the woman') is the husband 'ransomed' (i suwai) and the wife and some or all (depending on what has been negotiated) of the children born to the couple are transferred to his father's lineage. But a complete incorporation only takes place as a result of a new rite (ateham), which is followed by a special exchange with the wife's mother's brother. Finally, a residual claim of the wife's lineage on her and her children - symbolized by the taboo they have on stepping on the floor of any house of her father's lineage - is removed by another rite. There is a clear contrast between the initial stages, when only rights in sexual and culinary access to a woman are transferred, and the later ones, particularly when full control over the woman's residence and her reproductive powers is alienated. Not only are the requested payments in plates much smaller in the first case, but there is less insistence on immediate and full reciprocation with armshells from the wife-givers. O n the other hand, in the i sokoi rite the wife-givers are expected to give strings of glass beads (a scarce and precious valuable), in exchange for which they receive items of small value (store-bought sarongs). But then the wife-givers obtain the bridegroom for their house, and may use him both as a begetter (i.e. one who impregnates the bride on behalf of his brothers-in-law or fathers-in-law) and as a worker.



The greatest insistence on conditional giving, and on exact compensation, occurs when the bridegroom is 'returned' to his father's ipa and the 'woman is taken' from her father's house. Here the idiom is unmistakably one of loss: losses on one side matching losses on the other. There is little talk of giving out of generosity or mutual respect. In fact, ferocious haggling and shouting matches - not all for sham - take place. The wife-givers resist giving up the woman and her husband to his house, and must be persuaded to change their attitude with repeated payments. They keep asking for more, until they feel they have enough to release them. But conversely, the husband's party is equally insistent on exact reciprocation. They refuse to release their plates before they have been filled with the appropriate number of armshells.26 Some even take their plate back if they are not satisfied with the amount of armshells offered, although it is taboo (makuwoli) to do ~ 0 . ~ 7 People often describe the event by comparing it to a market. This comparison is more apt than may appear at first, for anybody - even a stranger - who wants to use the occasion as an opportunity for exchanging a plate for armshells, or armshells for plates, can join the proceedings, by siding with the appropriate party The event may thus attract people who have only very distant relations, or even no relations at all, with the parties to the marriage.28 It may even attract people from other neighbouring groups (since the same system of payments and counterpayments exists all over the interior of Central Seram). Reciprocally, similar events in neighbouring villages often attract Huaulu eager to convert, for their own purposes, armshells into plates, or plates into armshells. The purpose of these collateral exchanges is essentially to obtain a thing for another; it is not to honour an alliance relationship or to contribute to its establishment. But even among the parties more directly connected with the alliance, it is difficult to separate what is motivated by the desire to obtain a particular valuable, and what is motivated by the obligations or interests inherent in the alliance itself: The two motivations can clearly coexist, thereby contributing to the Huaulu sense that there is something of the market, or of buying and selling, in the situation. The otherness of the parties is thus emphasized both by the mode of their exchanges and by allowing them to become associated with exchanges that are affinal in name only, since their main purpose is to use an object to obtain an object rather than a person, or a social relationship. Alliance as dialectical process The marriage process thus begins in certain interpersonal relationships that contain it as a potential, and moves through the various stages of its actualization. Its culmination is a series of transactions in which the otherness of the parties is at its most extreme - constantly bordering on hostility and even acquiring the potential of breakdown and war. Accordingly, the idiom of 'buying' is strongest here. But conversely, it is here that it must be more strongly negated after having been given a momentary expression. If it were allowed to endure, it is the alliance relationship that would not endure. Yet if



it were not allowed to exist for a while, alliance would suffer from its absence too. For alliance exists in Huaulu not as static 'non-otherness' or 'otherness', or as some combination of the two, but exclusively as dynamic form: as a distinct form of relatedness which is the result of a repeated play of affirmations and negations deployed in the movement of exchange. At each stage of the marriage process - and in its most extreme form in the final stages otherness is affirmed between the parties so as to be negated by the reversal of the exchange form in which it finds its expression. The payment in plates for the woman which constitutes the 'buying of her', is allowed to exist so as to be negated (or 'crushed', tupa, as the Huaulu say) by a counterpayment in armshells. This negation is also a kind of affirmation: the affirmation of alliance as the overcoming of otherness. Alliance cannot be merely reproduced through its 'consanguine' transmission. Otherness must be reproduced at each generation (even where some 'blood', some 'non-otherness' is recognized) so that it can again be transcended, as it was transcended in the founding alliance between the parties in mythical times. The ancestors established their alliance to overcome real enmity; their descendants do not revert to war in order to establish peace more convincingly, but have recourse to that form of exchange which in their experience indexes the greatest sense of hostility or difference - commodity exchange. They do not so much begin their alliance by commodifying their women, as by evoking the moral perils of such commodification. They involve themselves in commodity exchange, or perhaps in the aping of it, only to the extent that is necessary to be able to negate it. The fundamental point is that the initial 'buying' and the subsequent 'crushing' cannot be homogenized as the two symmetrical sides of the same relationship. This homogenization is made impossible by their conceptual and practical asymmetry, on which the Huaulu insist. Conceptually, the terms used to refer to the transactions cannot be viewed as equivalents of the anthropologist's 'gift' and 'countergift'. Furthermore, the wife-takers do not give plates as the countergift for the gift of a woman, as I have mentioned. The movement of exchange is quite different and more complex. The wifegivers do not give the woman unilaterally, but because they have received a payment for her. It is only later, after thky have reciprocated this payment, that the transfer of the woman acquires, a posteriori, the status of a unilateral gift. The gift thus comes at the end, becake nothing more is given by the wife-takers for her. In sum, the wife-takers 'buy' a woman and do not reciprocate her as a gift, and the wife-givers give her as a gift only by negating, through their reciprocation, the selling which is the implicit correlate of that buying. But the homogenization of the wife-taker's prestation and that of the wife-giver is also made impossible by the existence of very clear practical asymmetries between them. First of all, there are two temporal asymmetries. One involves time as order of succession, the other time as duration. With regard to the former, the burden of initiating the transaction, of putting



together an adequate payment to meet the wife-giver's requirements, rests with the wife-taker. This burden cannot be compensated by the mere reciprocation of the sum paid and is not matched by an equal burden for the wife-giver in assembling the reciprocating payment. The reason has to do with the second temporal asymmetry between the parties. While the payment at each stage must be total and immediate to effect the necessary transfer of rights, the counterpayments tend to be - for the most part staggered. Even in the culminating transaction, where the wife-takers bring the more numerous and more valuable plates, and accordingly insist on -. immediate reciprocation, the latter rarely occurs in its entirety To avoid deadlock, the wife-takers often have little choice but to release their plates, even if they have not managed to bully their counterparts into giving the totality of their equivalent in armshells. They will have to be content with the promise that they will receive the rest as it becomes available. In some cases, the reciprocation is never completed. And even if it is completed, it does not cancel the time passed. The temporal lag remains to colour the payment differently from the counterpayment. They are not reciprocal even when they eventually square each other quantitatively. There are also asymmetries with regards to the counterpayments which are due. Only half of one payment in antique plates (the one for the bride's mother's brother) is reciprocated by tangibles. The other half is reciprocated with something unquantifiable: blessings and fertility Further, a small payment given by the bridegroom at the moment he begins his period of 'uxorilocal residence and brideservice' (kolaupu) is not reciprocated. More importantly, the 'price of the woman' has two components. The main one is the amount of antique plates gven. The secondary one consists of modern, store-bought objects such as dinner plates, kaluem (sarongs) and asopem (red cloth), and cash. Only the first component is reciprocated. Lest we make more of this asymmetry than the Huaulu themselves make of it, though, some qualifications are necessary The first is that the 'price of the woman' is principally her equivalent in antique plates. The payment of store-bought items and even more of cash is often not considered worth mentioning. The second point is that wife-givers also make similar collateral contributions of which no record, or no precise record, is kept. At certain stages they contribute precious traditional objects such as uwenuem (necklaces of glass beads) and at others great quantities of food. Most importantly, at the end of the cycle of marriage transactions, they often give a piece of land (i sali kaitahuam) to the wife-takers (a record of this is kept). The third point is that there is no conversion of such prestations into any homogeneous quantity Most interestingly, there is no conversion in cash, although all the contributions from the wife-takers' side have cash equivalents. Value conversions of the objects given by the wife-givers are impossible, of course, since these consist of food or items such as beads that have no precise equivalent in valuables of any other kind. The idea of precise reciprocation is thus alien to these payments. As a result, they are more on the gift side - particularly when coming from



the wife-givers, than the payments of plates and armshells. Yet the outlays of the two parties in these collateral prestations are clearly not equal. The wifetakers can argue that they give more than what they receive, except when they receive bead necklaces, which are extremely valuable, but which are reciprocated only with a sarong or two - as we have seen. This asymmetry has been reinforced in recent years, due to two convergent factors. One is that traditional valuables, especially antique plates, are becoming increasingly scarce because of their constant alienation to pedlars who seek them for the antique markets in Jakarta or Singapore. The other is the increasing accessibility of cash and cash-bought items. As a result, the secondary component of the marriage prestation - which hardly existed in the past - has become increasingly important, to the point that the Huaulu are now aware that the marriage prestations risk becoming denatured. Not only is the 'buying' component becoming stronger, but it is being unhinged from its traditional locus (the payment of antique plates) where it could be negated by the wife-givers' counterpayment. These developments threaten to make Huaulu marriage exchanges more of a commodity transaction than they ever were. But they also show more starkly that this component was there from the beginning, and that even then it could not be completely negated by the counterprestation in armshells. In fact, the latter manages more successfully to erase the imputation that the woman is sold, than to cancel the claim that she is bought. The latter claim remains not only because buying applies at a certain point in time, even if it is countered or even negated by another transaction at a later time (I have no less paid for something if I am reimbursed afterward), but also because, as we have just seen, the counterprestation in armshells never completely compensates the wifetakers for their payments. However partial and staggered in time, the negation of 'buying' effected by the counterprestation is sufficient progressively to make the transfer of the woman more asymmetrical, that is less reciprocated, over time. What begins as a reciprocal transaction of plates for rights in the woman, ends - at each stage of the marriage process - as a largely non-reciprocal transfer of her. Reciprocity is thus moved away from its initial point of application - it becomes the reciprocal exchange of plates and armshells. The woman progressively ceases to be defined as an object of exchange, or as preponderantly so, and becomes a unilateral gift. As I have mentioned, this passage from 'buying' to 'gift-giving' or rather to a gift-giving that exists only as the negation of an initial buying, coincides with the passage from otherness to relatedness on which the constitution of alliance is predicated. What remains to explain is: what kind of relatedness is created by the association of an at least partly unreciprocated prestation of a woman and a reciprocal exchange of plates for armshells? The relatedness created by the partly unreciprocated prestation of a woman is very clearly a hierarchical one. The continuity of the relationship between allies can only be ensured if the ineradicable character of the debt of



life that one has vis-a-vis the other is stressed. The initial conversion of the woman into a price is necessary as a mark of the initial otherness of the parties and as a way to establish the costliness of the life potential ceded. But this conversion cannot be allowed to remain without eliminating the debt of the wife-taker and thus breaking his relationship with the wife-giver. The latter must therefore reconstitute the debt through its counterprestation. Without it there would be no alliance - that is a continuous relationship rooted in a debt of life - but a mere exchange of valuables for a woman reduced to commodity status. The reciprocal exchange of plates and armshells is thus, first and foremost, the consequence of the (always partial) redefinition of 'buylng the woman' as 'receiving the gift of life'. It is the unintended result of a system of reproduction of alliance which curiously combines buying and gift-giving as two necessary moments of the process of the reproduction of hierarchy out of otherness. But this unintended result also acquires a life of its own which makes it a powerful tool for the continuation of alliance. It keeps it going by creating a continuous interest of each party in the valuables of the other. The wife-takers give plates in exchange for the woman, but expect to receive their worth in armshells in return. They will have to wait - sometimes - for a long time to see their prestation fully converted. They will have to pursue a variety of strategies to cajole their partners, force them, or interest them into coming up with the valuables they owe. O n the other side of the fence, the wife-givers do not simply delay their reciprocations as long and as much as is compatible with sustaining their honour and worth as superior, life-giving, partners. Their conflicting interests are not served only by alternatively showing themselves generous or dragging their feet, but also in giving armshells as a form of investment - as a way of ensuring that the wife-takers feel that they can without risk give contributions of plates to their wifegivers' own marriage payments. Such contributions are made to the wife-givers above and beyond those which they require at the different stages of the marriage process. They demonstrate that alliance is a state of continuous indebtedness - that one must pay for life throughout one's life, or tutu ita maatae 'until death', as the Huaulu put it. But also that it is an indebtedness that one feels more if there is an assurance of repayment. The point was clearly made to me by one of my Huaulu friends. When I asked him: Why do you reciprocate the wife-takers' plates with armshells?', he answered in strategic, not in institutional, terms: 'Because otherwise they would not give us more plates when we need them'. The answer indicates the extent to which the purely monetary game of exchange has become detached from what ultimately motivates it - the transfer of a woman. People give out of a sense of debt which is more directly related to what valuables they have received than to the woman whom they have received. They also give in the hope of securing certain valuables which they need for their own transactions.



I have often had, in Huaulu, the sense of encountering a kula-like system

- one which, in contrast to the Melanesian one, is intertwined with the
asymmetrical circulation of women, but is also sufficiently detached from it to become a game of its own, or at least one with its own properties. It seems to me that this purely monetary game, brought into existence by the redefinition of the prestation of plates by the counterprestation of armshells, does not simply accompany alliance as a byproduct, but is one of the main forms of its existence. The problem of alliance is that as a relationship it is not supported by anything substantial (sharing of common blood or of a common patrimony) that would constitute the correlative objective of its continuity The continuity of alliance can only exist in a more abstract form - as the continuity of the debt created by the transfer of a woman. To this abstract continuity, however, the concrete flow of exchanges in valuables over time lends some concreteness. Thus the proliferation of reciprocal exchanges of valuables is the main form of the existence of alliance over time. Contrary to the woman, who is one, the valuables are many Metaphorically and metonymically they multiply her body and ensure her continuous and repeated circulation and recirculation between the two allies. It is not surprising, then, that these valuables all refer to different aspects and properties of the female body and of the life that passes through it.29But this is a topic that will have to be addressed elsewhere. Conc1usion:for a dialectic of 'g$' and 'commodities'
A whole school of anthropological thought has radically opposed 'gift-economies' and 'commodity economies' (Gregory 1982; Strathern 1988; Weiner 1992). As many have observed, such radical opposition is largely the result of viewing the gift as an inverted form of commodity exchange (cf. Liep 1990: 178; Parry & Bloch 1989: 9; Thomas 1991: 15). Indeed, this is explicitly recognized by Gregory After having repeated Marx's definition of commodity exchange as 'an exchange of alienable things between transactors who are in a state of reciprocal independence', Gregory adds: 'the corollary of this is that non-commodity (gift) exchange is an exchange of inalienable things between transactors who are in a state of reciprocal dependence' (Gregory 1982: 12). But this definition begs the question of whether 'the gift' can indeed be viewed as the inversion of commodity exchange as defined by Marx. The Huaulu facts that I have just discussed furnish further evidence that it cannot. They confirm that what may legitimately be translated as 'gift' in different societies forms an area far too heterogeneous to figure as the mirror image of 'commodity exchange'. Thus Gregory's definition of this area distorts it by attributing to it a homogeneity and unity that is in fact a historical property of exchange in the capitalist economy30 Even the usual generalization of the term 'exchange' to cover all phenomena of give-andtake is misleading and ethnocentric, as I have attempted to show31 Another reason for rejecting the radical opposition of gift (however defined) and commodity exchange is that they cannot be separated in practice.



Gregory's own analysis of Papua New Guinea as 'an "ambiguous" economy where things are now gifts, now commodities, depending upon the social context' (Gregory 1982: 117) demonstrates this for the colonial and postcolonial periods, during which commodity production developed significantly But even the idea of a pristine economy purely characterized by the gift seems hard to accept (cf Thomas 1991; Humphrey & Hugh-Jones 1992). My own inclination is either to dispense with the dichotomy 'gift'/'commodity exchange' altogether or, as I do in this article, to use it only as a useful shorthand for the relative contrast between a variety of forms of give-andtake dictated by a sense of obligation and commitment, on the one hand, and a variety of forms merely or principally dictated by a desire to obtain certain objects by means of exchange, on the other. Further, I would stress that, in deciding whether a phenomenon is closer to the 'gift' pole or to the 'commodity exchange' pole of the spectrum of give-and-take, the nature of the pre-existing relationship between the object given and the giver ('alienable' or 'inalienable' or whatever) is much less important, and more contingent, and than the nature of the relationship between the p a r t i e ~ , 3 ~ than the values and significations of the objects that move between them. In any event, the more relevant issue is not how best to define the polarity of 'gift' and 'commodity exchange' but what use should be made of it. It should be used less to construct two air-tight types ('gift economy' and 'commodity economy') than heuristically, as an aid to identify the various concrete forms and cycles of give-and-take, and their intricate interrelationships in each society, since no society is exclusively of the 'gift' or of the 'commodity' type. A number of recent studies seem to be going in this direction. They seek to account for concrete phenomena as outcomes of the interrelationship of 'gift' and 'commodity exchange' ideologies and practices. In briefly considering these studies, I shall also attempt to show how the dialectical perspective developed in this article may help to reformulate or modifj some of their conclusions. The most commonly discussed case is the oscillation of the same object between commodity status and non-commodity status, depending on the circuits in which it finds itself at any given time (cf Gregory 1982). Anybody who has had to buy an expensive piece of jewellery for a gift, or has had to sell a cherished memento for money, or has given a gift in cash, is well aware of this kind of oscillation. But its banality has not deterred - and rightly so several theorists from advocating a 'biographical method' in the study of the changes in the moral status of objects (Kopytoff 1986; Appadurai 1986) or of money (Parry & Bloch 1989) as they move back and forth between market relations and relations founded on obligations or sentiments. The problem with such oscillatory models is that they see the trajectory of objects between the two opposed abstractions 'commodity' and 'gift' (or, in the case of Parry and Bloch, a sphere of individual interest and one of collective interest), but they do not see that the trajectory itself may constitute a specific form of exchange which borrows properties from each of the opposites between



which it moves. For instance, it could be argued (as I have elsewhere, Valeri 1980) that Huaulu marriage exchanges use a property of the monetary or quasi-monetary signs which they employ - namely, the fact that they embody abstract value - for their own symbolic purposes. By reducing the individual women married at each generation by the men of a house to (ideally) the same sum of quantitative value, they do not simply begin as commodity exchange what must eventually be terminated as gift, but signify the equivalence of all those women as expressions of the same alliance, itself identified with a specific value. Thus what is from one point of view a 'price' in the sense of an exchange value, from another point of view is the hierarchical encompassment of an individual into a species (a certain rank associated with the women of a certain house). A sum of money embodies all the things that can be had for it, and which are therefore renounced by giving it in exchange for a woman. But it also embodies all the women who have been exchanged for the same sum and thus, through their equivalence, the continuity of the alliance over time. Analogously, the recourse to a market-like exchange of valuables at the very moment that the woman is transferred allows an alliance to demonstrate its power to permeate and energize much of the community by stimulating a self-interested participation in the event in those who have no obligation to contribute to it. Indeed, in the Huaulu view an event is all the more successful, and its promoters all the more prestigious, the more people participate in it. The reasons for participating matter less than the participation itself Thus alliance may use the market for purposes that have nothing to do with it - that is, for demonstrating its own drawing power. Another frequently studied kind of interrelationship between commodity and non-commodity transactions is oppositional. Thomas (1991: 197), for instance, tells us that Fijians have come to identify their tradition with the gift ('the way of the land') and the culture of the Westerners with commodity exchange or money making ('the way of money'). But this ideological contrast does not simply imply the mystified counterposing of two ways of life. It also allows the Fijians to borrow certain notions from the commercial world (such as those of 'purchase' and 'price') and to recontextualize them to express aspects of the Fijian moral universe. Thus Thomas interprets the statement by Fijian men that they 'purchase' the bride and pay a 'price' for her (Thomas 1991: 194) as a metaphoric transfer - as the expression, in commodity terms, of the difficulty of assembling items for a non-commodity transaction: 'the value of internal exchange is paradoxically expressed through the market value of things which are not sold: the men who drew my attention to the value of cattle, drums and whale teeth were using monetary value as a measure and metaphor for their dedication to custom, to the ways of the land' (Thomas 1991: 200). For such things could be sold, and a price obtained for them, so that their price represents the investment that Fijians have in their non-commodity economy. But if this is the case, the value of the custom presupposes that of the commodity, and the use of the notion of price in a matrimonial context is less the metaphoric extension



claimed by Thomas than an index of the dominance achieved by commodity value even in village society Perhaps, then, Thomas does away a bit too quickly with the equivalence established by his informants between the woman and her price, and thus with her value conversion. It may well be that the Fijian facts call for an analysis somewhat along the lines of my analysis of the Huaulu facts, where commodity value is incorporated as such to be negated in the dialectical process that brings about - or attempts to bring about - its overcoming. But although Thomas's rather glib talk of metaphoric transfer and recontextualization is not without problems, and the developments he has subsequently given in his analysis of the 'oppositional' character of Fijian neo-traditional ideology (Thomas 1992; 1992b) have not gone unchallenged (cf Sahlins in press), I do find that the general thrust of his approach is a genuine progress over the 'oscillatory' model of Appadurai and others, as it allows some space for the mutual determination and modification of commodity and non-commodity forms in their concrete historical entanglements. A third type of dynamic interrelationship between commodity and gift has recently been proposed by Gel1 (1992). This is not one of opposition but of modelling. Gell's argument is that Melanesian reproductive gift exchanges cannot be understood in isolation from male-controlled commodity exchanges, as the latter are templates for the former. Indeed, in his view reproductive gift-exchange represents the attempt of men to harness the originally female-centred domain of human reproduction. Thus, while reproductive gift exchange differs from commodity exchange, it is logically and historically dependent on it. Here again, objections can be raised (cf Strathern 1992: 189). It is not clear how commodity exchange can form a template for a form of exchange that is ultimately quite different from it. How do we concretely move from one to the other? More importantly is not the relationship between the two forms internal to reproductive exchange, again in the manner that I have attempted to delineate for Huaulu, rather than merely extrinsic - one between an external 'template' and its internal realization? Clearly, if the spirit of Gell's interpretation points to a dialectical model, the spirit has not quite become flesh. It is precisely the shapes of this dialectical flesh that I have myself sought to grasp in this article, arguing that the opposition of gift and commodity exchange has been internalized as constitutive process in Huaulu marriage alliance.
NOTES The fieldwork on which this article is based was carried out in 1971-3, 1985, 1986 and 1988. It was sponsored by the Lernbaga Ilrnu Pengetahuan Indonesia aakarta) and by the Universitas Pattirnura (Arnbon). Funding was provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Institute for Intercultural Studies and the Lichtstern Fund. The analysis of the field data was facilitated by fellowships from the J.S. Guggenheim Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. T o all these institutions goes my deepest gratitude. Olivia Harris, Signe Howell, Ann Lorirner, Olaf



Smedal and Rupert Stasch made useful observations on some versions of the article, Janet Hoskins on all versions. My debt to the Huaulu people is immense. I can only repay it by speaking of them - I hope not too badly. I should perhaps say at the outset that limitations of space do not allow me to discuss the wider context (the long history of trade and colonialism in the Central Moluccas) of this relationship (cf. van Leur 1983; Meilink-Roelofsz 1962; Elmberg 1968; Ellen 1979; Knaap 1987; Valeri 1989; Andaya 1991). The name Huaulu refers to a people and to the single village (niniani) which constitutes its ceremonial centre at any given time. Additionally, the village may also be named after thq place where it is situated. The present village is almost always referred to as Huaulu. "ote, however, that contrary to what is the case in many other Eastern Indonesian societies (Fox 1980: 10-12), and elsewhere in Seram, the term for 'house' (luma) is rarely used in Huaulu to refer to the house as a social group. However, the latter may be called tuka 'kitchen' (a reference to the notional commensality of its members), as well as ipa. An interesting term of comparison is provided by the Nuaulu of Southern Seram, among whom each ipan (a cognate of Huaulu ipa) is divided into a pair of numa (a cognate of Huaulu luma) (Ellen 1990: 6). Ellen renders ipan as 'clan' and numa as 'house'. But in Huaulu, ipa refers to different segmentary levels, only the lower of which deserves comparison with the anthropological concept of 'house'. So say the Huaulu, although shells may also come from the reef areas of Eastern Seram. Strictly speaking, though, the criterion of further alienability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for establishing the commodity character of a thing given. For the giving of something as a gift may imply full alienation and thus the right of further alienating the thing given. Gifts, then, may be as alienable as commodities, contrary to what is stated by certain theorists whom I shall discuss at the end of this article. This point is adumbrated by Uvi-Strauss (1967: 300), although it is somewhat in conflict with his theory of marriage as an exchange of women, and is clearly expressed by Meillassoux (1975: 100). Goody (1990: 3) has rightly stressed that a woman remains a daughter to her group even after she has become a wife to her husband. But the fact has different siyifications in different societies. Throughout this article I assume that an object deserves the name 'money' if the token value in it is more important than the use value and if it functions as a means of exchange (cf. Sahlins 1972: 227). With Simmel (1978: 127, 176-7, 186, 274-6) and Mauss (1978: 178-9 n. I), I believe that no sharp distinction should be made between what is and what is not money. The monetary is a matter of degree - a property of objects that may have other properties. Thus I reject the claim that money is only found in a market system (Dalton 1965). This similaritv was the source of no discomfort in Homeric times. when the same term - alpha'no - designated the procuring of a gain either from the selling of a war captive or from the giving away of a daughter in marriage (hence the expression parthtnoi alphesibobi 'virgins who give a gain in oxen'). Benveniste comments: 'C'est la valeur d'tchange que posstde un corps humain qu'on livre pour un certain prix. Cette "valeur" prend son sens pour qui dispose ltgalement d'un Stre humain, que ce soit une fille 2 marier ou surtout un prisonnier 3 vendre' (Benveniste 1966: 326). It should be noted that, although officially outlawed, slavery is alive and well in various parts of Eastern Indonesia, where slaves are still transferred in exchange for valuables and often as part of ceremonial transactions such as marriages and funerals. lo O f course, blood flows through people. But the choice of a more abstract term - a substance common to all categories and even individuals - is highly significant. People are, in this ideology, reduced to carriers of blood and become identical in its flow. Indeed, they are often referred to as lasi pehapehaem 'pieces/portions of blood'. This reconceptualization of people as blood has the effect of weakening the contrast usually found between a woman (whose alienation is, up to a point, reversible) and her children (who are irreversibly alienated) (cf. Kuper 1982: 26).




l1 The ambiguity of a woman with regard to her status in exchange is matched by her ambiguity as a subject of rights. The issue of whether she is person or chattel rarely has a yes or no answer. In many societies, including Huaulu, she is person with regard to certain rights, and chattel with regard to others. For example, in the Mishnah, the Jewish code of laws compiled in the second century A.D., she is viewed as chattel wherever her sexuality and reproductive power are involved, or wherever she is in a classificatorily ambiguous position - as Wegner has demonstrated with admirable clarity (Wegner 1988: 6-8, 16, 17-19). '% similar distinction bemeen perishables and durables is found among the Nuaulu (Ellen 1990: 7-8). l3 Usually from Muslim villages on the northern coast of Seram. l4 T o quote Seneca: 'In benefits the book-keeping is simple - so much is paid out; if anything comes back, it is gain, if nothing comes back, there-is no loss. I made-the gift for the sake of giving ... The good man never thinks of them [his gifts] unless he is reminded of them by having them returned; otherwise, they transform themselves into a loan. T o regard a benefit as an amount advanced is putting it out at a shameful interest' (Seneca 1989: 11). Incidentally, Seneca's De benefuiis contains much that anticipates Mauss, including the triad of obligations (to give, to receive and to return) and the idea that the gift (or more generally the benefit) eventually returns to the giver (De benejuiis I. 3, 2-5). l5 This is precisely why I prefer to use here the expression 'give-and-take' to cover the field that since Malinowski (1922: 176) anthropologists have called, as a matter of (ethnocentric) course, 'exchange'. The ideas of reciprocity and conversion which are, etymologically and semantically, paramount in the English word 'exchange' (defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as 'to give and receive in a reciprocal manner') are not implied by all Huaulu give-and-take. l6 ~ h i ; because cooked food involves an at least indirect commensality and thus a ceris tain 'non-otherness', however provisional. Even animals which are regularly fed by the Huaulu with their own cooked food become, at least in part, 'non-other' and as such are taboo to eat for all members of the society (cf. Valeri 1992). l7 Unless, of course, the right to a reciprocation is explicitly renounced, in which case such gifts may declare an exceptional closeness among the parties. l8 This is a contrast which, I feel, is unduly stressed - and unduly universalized - in such theories as Gregory's (1982) and Weiner's (1992), which make the gift coextensive with the circulation of inalienable objects. Truly inalienable objects cannot circulate and sometimes cannot even physically move in Huaulu. "An interesting confirmation of the fact that the gift implies non-otherness in Huaulu is that the word for giving a gift (sama) is in all probability etymologically related to the word for 'same' (which is also sama). 20 A commodity is commonly defined as an object considered from the point of view of its exchange value, that is the 'quantitative proportion in which use values of one sort are exchanged for those of another sort' (Gregory 1982: 11). A commodity exchange postulates (and thus often makes it possible to create) the 'reciprocal independence' (Gregory 1982: 12) of the exchanging parties. 21 Interestingly, in the Tanimbar islands to the south of Seram, the most prestigious alliance relations are defined by both 'buying' and 'selling'. McKinnon (n.d.) sees this as a metaphoric usage implying equality - but it seems to me that it also implies a greater sense of distance than the one felt in other, less politically significant, alliance relations to which only the idioms of 'compassion' and 'embarrassment' are applied. These similarities and differences bemeen Tanimbar and Huaulu show the importance of taking the idiom of affinal give-and-take seriously. A comparative study of such idioms in Indonesia or in Melanesia would be more revealing than the linguistically disembodied speculations we are offered nowadays. 22 My discussion of marriage and related transactions is based on the following kinds of evidence: 1) observation of actual prestations and accompanying rituals; 2) interviews with the parties involved in these prestations and others which I did not observe; 3) the alliance history of various groups, as reported by their leaders; 4) commented descriptions of the



whole marriage process, obtained from different kinds of people, including women; 5) a census of all remembered payments and counterpayments for a majority of extant marriages; 6 ) tape-recordings of two events which prompted extended comments and reflections on the nature of alliance and accompanying prestations: the negotiation of a marriage payment and the negotiation of a fine for the breaking of a marriage promise; 7) comparative evidence from related peoples, particularly a complete census of remembered marriage prestations in the village of Piliana, whose inhabitants speak a dialect very close to the Huaulu dialect. In addition, my knowledge of the patterns of marriage choice and affiliation in Huaulu is based on a complete genealogical census. I hope soon to complete a monograph containing a detailed analysis of all these materials. 23 In 1973 I witnessed one such case - a marriage between a Huaulu man and a nonHuaulu woman which involved houses from practically all of the Huaulu eastern neighbours, from Nisawele to Manusela. The telescoping was required by the bridegroom's refusal to live uxorilocally with the bride's non-Huaulu guardians in a village at three days walk from Huaulu, and to the fact that the two had, exceptionally, eloped. Elopement, which is quite common in the coastal areas of Seram, is not considered an acceptable option among traditional inland peoples - and certainly not in Huaulu. Indeed, the above is the only case I know of a Huaulu man eloping with a woman. However, there have been attempts by Huaulu girls living on the coast to elope with non-Huaulu boys. In the only case which I witnessed (in 1986), the girl had to be returned. 24 Kaefini and leta are used both in reference and address. 25 In this and the preceding case, I am translating a Huaulu verb - rahe - which is used indifferently to refer to the ownership of things and persons (children, wives, slaves and even spirits). 26 This often forces the recipient to transfer immediately the ownership of the plate to somebody in his party, or even beyond it, who owns the appropriate number of armshells. Thus in one case that I know of, the bride's brother turned the celadon plate (pinahatu) he had just.received to one of his own wife-givers who happened to have the ten armshells re uired for its reciprocation. People do not hesitate to request the return of their unmatched plates in other affinal prestations as well. I witnessed one such request when the man who bestowed the ceremonial loincloth to his sister's son proved unable to give the appropriate number of armshells in exchange for one of the plates which he had received as a payment. 28 A number of coastal pedlars may also attend, as they expect to do a brisk business in cloth and other items which they know will be required in the transactions. They also know that cash, and thus the temptation to spend it on their wares, is nowadays part of marriage transactions. Pedlars who attempt to buy porcelain for the antique market may also be present. If people from other villages further inland from Huaulu participate in the event, such collateral commercial transactions are greatly expanded, as these people use the occasion to dispose of their saleable products (tobacco, some potatoes and cabbages) and to obtain commodities that come from the coast (salt, coconut oil, dried fish, clothes, bush knives, axes, pots and pans). A true market is thus present side by side with the metaphoric 'market' of marriage, to provide it with analogies and contrasts, as well as some of the valuables it requires. 29 The tracing of equivalences between valuables and female body parts is rather common in Seram. A sort of lex talionir presides over 'brideprice'. A woman's body is dissected into a number of parts each of which must be compensated by special valuables or quantities thereof (a certain type of plate for the skull, a gong for the voice, and so on). The Huaulu, in contrast, are less anatomical in their symbolism. They tend to associate valuables with more abstract properties which they read in the bodies of women. For instance, the armshells are associated with the womb but especially with the flow of blood through it an association exploited severally in marriage rituals. In one particularly telling rite, the husband returns to his father's house, after he has been 'ransomed' from his father-in-law's house, carrying a number of armshells given as counterprestation. The armshells are bundled up in a sarong that hangs from his neck This is the way of carrying children. The




bundle must fall o n the husband's belly, and is said to represent his wife's pregnant womb. The rite emphasizes the transfer of the rights in the reproductive potential of the woman to the husband, but by the same token it demonstrates the equivalence of armshells and female fertility. As for the plates, these may be given in exchange for women because they are associated with eating and thus also with the nurturing identity of women. Furthermore, the fact that plates and bowls are containers may also have a metaphoric connexion with women as containers of children. Note that the general term for the more valuable and ancient plates (pinu) is homophonous with the honorific term for a woman, particularly a married one (pinu). Etymologically, the two words have different origins. The Huaulu themselves deny any connexion between them. Yet the homophony may unconsciously reinforce the obvious symbolic associations between the women and the plates that are given for them. 30 Furthermore, it is doubtful that that unity can truly be provided by the notion of 'inalienable' as used by Gregory or, for that matter, by Strathern and Weiner. For they seem to collapse in this notion very different, and even heterogeneous, forms of subjectfobject relations, such as ownership, authorship, objectification and so on. These may have different exchange implications. For instance, the authorship of works of art is inalienable, but it does not exclude the alienation of their ownership and in no way dictates that they should only be 'ven as gifts (cf. Valeri in press). "The residues of the political economy model in the anthropological conceptualization of the gift as exchange have also been denounced by Lantz (1988: 64, 69). In a similar vein, Weiner (1992) has criticized the tendency to equate the area of the gift with that of reciprocity. 32 Gifts may involve Gregory's 'reciprocal dependence', but also unilateral dependence and - perhaps most importantly - the idea that a common identity entails mutual claims on each other's possessed objects, particularly when they are basic life-sustaining or life-reproducing resources. It is because gifts axiomatically entail a measure of common identity that they can be used to create it.

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Des femmes achetCes, mais non vendues: 1'Cchange de dons et de biens marchands dans I'alliance huaulu
R&ume' Les Huaulu du Stram (Indontsie orientale) se plaisent 1dire qu'ils 'achttent' leurs femmes et que celles-ci ont un 'prix', qu'elles sont 'chtres'. Pourtant, on ne les entend jamais dire qu'ils 'vendent' leurs soeurs ou leurs filles 1 d'autres hommes. Au contraire, ils laissent entendre que celles-ci sont donntes en cadeau. I1 serait erront d'interprtter les rtftrences 1I'tchange marchand - meme dans leur forme incompltte - comme ttant 'mttaphoriques', car les preneurs de femmes doivent rendre aux donneurs de femmes l'tquivalent du 'prix' 2 payer pour une tpouse, sans quoi leur assertion que celle-ci est, non pas vendue, mais offerte en cadeau perdrait de savaliditt. L'argument mis en avant dans l'article est que les tchanges matrimoniaux ont une structure dialectique: ils commencent comme des transactions marchandes (les droits sur les femmes sont tchangts pour des droits sur des objects prtcieux equivalents), mais terminent en cadeaux. En effet, le paiement initial est annul6 par un contre-paiement tquivalent. Par consequent, ces tchanges ne peuvent pas Etre dtfinis dans I'absolu ou de manitre a-temporelle comme ttant soit des tchanges de 'cadeaux', soit des tchanges de 'biens marchands'. Le fait qu'ils correspondent 1 deux formes oppostes de concessions mutuelles doit etre expliqu6 par la presence simultante et contradictoire dans I'alliance matrimoniale de la 'difftrence' (associte de manitre paradigmatique 1 I'tchange de biens marchands) et de la 'non-difftrence' (associte de manitre paradigrnatique au don).

Department ofAnthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, U.S.A.

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