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The social life of things

Commodities in cultural perspective

Edited by
ARJUN APPADURAI
University of Pennsylvania

The right of the


University of Cambridge
to print and sell

all manner of books


was granted by
Henry Vlll in 1534.
The University has printed

and published continuously


since 1584.

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS


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Contents

Cambridge University Press 1986


First published 1986
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Catalogi,ng-in-Publication Data

Contributors

page vii

Main entry under title:


The social life of things.

Foreword by Nancy Farriss

Includes index.
1. Commerce - Social aspects - Addresses, essays,
lectures. 2. Economic anthropology - Addresses, essays,
lectures. 3. Commerce - History - Addresses, essays,
lectures. I. Appadurai, Arjun, l 949GN450.S63 1986
306'.3
85-19529

Preface

ISBN 0 521 32351 7

Xlll

Part I Toward an anthropology of things


Introduction: commodities and the politics of value

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

The social life of things : commodities in


cultural perspective.
I. Economic anthropology 2. Raw materials
I. Appadurai, Arjun
306'.3
GN450

ix

Arjun Appadurai

2 The cultural biography of things: commoditization


as process

64

Igor Kopytoff

Part II

Exchange, consumption, and display

3 Two kinds of value in the Eastern Solomon Islands


William H. Davenport
4

Newcomers to the world of goods: consumption


among the Muria Goods

95

110

Alfred Gell

Part III

Prestige, commemoration, and value

5 Varna and the emergence of wealth in prehistoric


Europe

141

Colin Renfrew

Sacred commodities: the circulation of medieval relics


Patrick Geary
v

169

Contents

v1

Part IV

Production regimes and the sociology of demand

7 Weavers and dealers: the authenticity of an oriental


carpet
Brian Spooner
8

Qat: changes in the production and consumption of a


quasilegal commodity in northeast Africa
Lee V. Cassanelli

195

Contributors

236

is Associate Professor of Anthropology and


South Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author
of Worship and Conflict Under Colonial Rule (1981 ).
ARJUN APPADURAI

Part V
9

10

Historical transformations and commodity codes

The structure of a cultural crisis: thinking about cloth


in France before and after the Revolution
William M. Reddy

261

The origins of swadeshi (home industry): cloth and


Indian society, 1700-1930
C. A. Bayly

285

c. A. BAYLY is Fellow of St. Catharine's College, University of Cambridge, and Smuts Reader in Commonwealth Studies. He has published The Local Roots of Indian Politics: Allahabad, 1880-1920 (1975)
and Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of
British Expansion, 1770-1870 (1983).
v. CASSANELLI teaches in the Department of History at the
University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Shaping of Somali
Society: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People ( 1982).

LEE

Index

323

WILLIAM H. DAVENPORT teaches anthropology at the University


of Pennsylvania, where he is also Curator for Oceania at the University
Museum. He has done field research in Jamaica and the Solomon
Islands and historical research on pre-European Hawaii, and has published extensively on all these areas.
PATRICK GEARY is Associate Professor of History at the University
of Florida. He is the author of Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central
Middle Ages (1978) and Aristocracy in Provence: The Rhone Basin at the
Dawn of the Carolingian Age (1985).

teaches social anthropology at the London School of


Economics and Political Science. He is the author of Metamorphosis of
the Cassowaries: Umeda Society, Language and Ritual (1975).
ALFRED GELL

IGOR KOPYTOFF of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania is coeditor (with Suzanne Miers) of Slavery in
Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives ( 1977) and author of
Varieties of Witchcraft: The Social Economy of Secret Power (forthcoming).

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