Real Bartering

-Barter does exist, just rarely between fellow villagers
-Nambikwara of Brazil: if one band sees the cooking fires of another nearby, they’ll send emissaries to negotiate a trade meeting. If accepted, they hide the women and children and invite the men over to talk. Chiefs give a speech praising the other band and belittling his own, they put aside weapons, sing and dance, then individuals approach each other to trade. They have this really ritualized thing where they argue over if the things they want are any good, agree on a trade, and then with mock-force take the things they’ve agreed to trade. Then they have a big feast.
-So basically for the Nambikwara, “Barter… was carried out between people who might otherwise be enemies and hovered about an inch away from outright warfare– and, if the ethnographer is to be believed– if one side later decided they had been taken advantage of, it could very easily lead to actual wars.”
-Gunwinggu of Western Arnhem Land in Australia: They have a region-wide moiety system (kinship groups where everyone in a group is part of one lineage), so people are basically divided up into teams and can only marry people from other teams. They have a big festival called the dzamalag where after some initial negotiations, strangers come to another group’s main camp. They sing and dance, then do flirty dances, fuck, and give them trade goods. When everyone’s satisfied, the host group gives the visitors their own trade goods in return. Then everyone eats.
-Point is, barter happens during “meetings with strangers who will, likely as not, never meet again, and with whom one certainly will not enter into any ongoing relations. This is why a direct one-on-one exchange is appropriate: each side makes their trade and walks away.” It’s also why there are big rituals involving food and dance and “shared pleasures,” and why they make light of the tension of possible hostility between them through play.