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Case Studies in Anthropology

In chapter five of the book “The Yanamamo: Case Studies in Anthropology” by Napoleon A. Chagnon deals with political alliances, trading and feasting and how it fits into their culture and practices. Alliances between villages involve casual trading, mutual feasting and the exchange of women. Their power exists with the ideal that the stronger villages should take advantages of the weaker villages and this is shown by taking of the women of one village from another.

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Because of this military threat intervillage alliance is desirable and villages should behave in a strong fashion so trade alliances are very important. There are three distinct features of Yanamano trading practices. The first is that each item traded must be repaid with a different type of item. Who ever gets the gift must repay his partner and this is called no mraiha. This way of giving must be paid back and is a leverage to ask for a reciprocal gift. Second the gift is usually delayed.

The ideal is that one trade will force the other and gives members of neighboring villages an excuse and opportunity to visit each other. The third is the specialization of the gifts. Each village has one or more specialized products to use in trade. The feast is a display of affluence and is a way to challenge the guests to give a feast of equal size at a later time and place. Sometimes so much food is offered that the guest will eat too much go and vomit and then return to eat more. Each feast calls for another.

This is a way for allies to get to know each other during the dry season and over the years. Feasts are exciting and form a bond between the villages for years.

Reference: Chagnon, N. A. (1997). The Yanamamo: Case studies in anthropology. N. J. : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Possible questions for a test: 1. What is the importance of aggression in the Yanamano’s culture? (2-3 page answer) 2. What are the three features of trading practices among the Yanamamo culture? (short essay) 3. How are Women viewed in this culture? (Short essay).


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