A description of trade among Australian hunter-gatherers from David Graeber:
In the 1940s, an anthropologist, Ronald Berndt, described one dzamalag ritual, where one group in possession of imported cloth swapped their wares with another, noted for the manufacture of serrated spears. Here too it begins as strangers, after initial negotiations, are invited to the hostsâ€™ camp, and the men begin singing and dancing, in this case accompanied by a didjeridu. Women from the hostsâ€™ side then come, pick out one of the men, give him a piece of cloth, and then start punching him and pulling off his clothes, finally dragging him off to the surrounding bush to have sex, while he feigns reluctance, whereon the man gives her a small gift of beads or tobacco. Gradually, all the women select partners, their husbands urging them on, whereupon the women from the other side start the process in reverse, re-obtaining many of the beads and tobacco obtained by their own husbands. The entire ceremony culminates as the visitorsâ€™ men-folk perform a coordinated dance, pretending to threaten their hosts with the spears, but finally, instead, handing the spears over to the hostsâ€™ womenfolk, declaring: â€œWe do not need to spear you, since we already have!â€
This prompted a comment from Daniel Davies that it seems a lot of work to organize an orgy every time I want to buy a blanket.
I thought of this in Morocco recently while Lu was haggling for rugs in (orgy-free) Moroccan souks. Continue reading “Against haggling: woolly thoughts on the pre-industrial mode of production”