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Baias, Bisnis, and Betel Nut: The place of Traders in the Making of a Melanesian Market

Engaging with Capitalism: Cases from Oceania

ISBN: 978-1-78190-541-8, eISBN: 978-1-78190-542-5

Publication date: 2 May 2013


Purpose – This chapter examines the interactions among wholesale betel nut traders within Papua New Guinea’s (PNG’s) flourishing, contemporary, and indigenous betel nut trade. It explores the nature of the “social embeddedness” of the trade and how particular “place-based” practices and ideas shape people’s engagements with markets.Methodology/approach – Multisited ethnographic research focused on betel nut traders.Findings – This chapter highlights how local ideas about sociality and exchange shape the copresent rivalry and companionship that characterize interactions among Mt. Hagen’s betel nut traders. Traders travel long distances and take great risks to buy betel nut. They travel together, share resources, and trade in the same places, and through this they become part of one another’s social networks. This creates the expectation that traders will cooperate, consider other traders in their actions, contribute to each other’s safe-keeping, and act collectively in their interactions with producers. This does not preclude competition, however. Traders compete for profits, but the competiveness of their interactions is also influenced by a concern for status. This copresence of companionship and rivalry, which pervades Hagen sociality more broadly, is central to shaping the trade as a whole.Originality/value of the chapter – Betel nut is the most important domestic cash crop in PNG, and selling betel nut is a prominent livelihood activity for rural and urban people. This chapter reports some of the findings of the first detailed study of the betel nut trade in PNG.



Sharp, T.L.M. (2013), "Baias, Bisnis, and Betel Nut: The place of Traders in the Making of a Melanesian Market", Mccormack, F. and Barclay, K. (Ed.) Engaging with Capitalism: Cases from Oceania (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 33), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 227-256.



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