Choice in Economic Contexts: Volume 25


Table of contents

(14 chapters)
Content available

Although Research in Economic Anthropology (REA) actually hit the quarter-century mark in 2003 with the publication of Volume 22, the series has now done so also in terms of the number of volumes. Twenty-five seems like an important milestone, and perhaps this edition can be noted for passing that, but it also marks the third editorial change in the history of REA. When a new editor takes over, it seems prudent to offer a summary of the book series’ evolution to date. As many know, George Dalton was the original editor – beginning in 1978 (REA was then published by JAI Press). Dalton subsequently handed the reins to Barry Isaac, who produced Volumes 6 through 20, along with a number of supplemental publications that focused on specific topics or regions and contained only chapters of an archeological or ethnohistorical nature. In fact, Isaac is still recognized for his efforts at granting archeology an equal footing with ethnology in the study of human economic behavior.1 While Dalton included previously published material in the pages of REA and welcomed works by non-anthropologists, Isaac considered only original manuscripts and generally limited his selection of chapters to those written by anthropologists. Since Volume 20, REA has been published by Elsevier.

Immigration reform, anti-immigrant fervor and pro-immigrant protests in 2006 make the causes of Mexican migration an important political issue. In this chapter, survey data and interviews with Zapotec- and Spanish-speaking female household heads from Oaxaca, Mexico examine the relation between migrant destinations and labor demand in Mexico and the US. The goal of this piece is to assert the importance of structural and world economic processes (e.g., demand for labor) in the configuration of historically specific migration patterns.

The growing foreign labor population has become a major political issue in Taiwan. However, there has been a lack of understanding about foreign laborers in Taiwan from foreign laborer perspectives. This ethnographic case study focuses on foreign laborer perspectives and examines social contexts, conditions, and support for Filipino and Thai laborers at a meatpacking factory in rural southern Taiwan. The findings suggest that foreign laborers are pushed by family financial needs and pulled by higher wages and labor shortages in Taiwan meatpacking factories. Also, these laborers work and live under difficult conditions and lack social welfare and support.

The expansion of the European Union into southern Europe calls for a re-examination of the anthropological analysis of rural Greek society. This chapter examines some of the changes that have affected rural households in the Argolida region of Greece, and how households have adapted. It is argued that the household continues to be an important site for constructing relations of production. However, there has been a significant shift from forms of stratification and exploitation based on gender, kinship and patronage to new forms based on nationality and ethnicity. The dependence of households on (mostly illegal) immigrant labor has both subsidized their rising standard of living and trapped them in a new regime of social inequality.

Henna, a vegetable dye made from ground henna leaves that is used by Moroccan women to create temporary designs for the hands and feet, has become a profitable tourist sector service in the past decade. The social organization and relations of tourist sector henna artisans in the Marrakesh area are closely tied to how the spaces where they work are socially constructed and re-constructed. The artisans’ assertive public behavior directed at strangers is socially disapproved, and highlighted in interactions between the artisans and representatives of the state as well as guides and shopkeepers. Artisans working in public squares organize into multi-function cooperative groups in order to preserve claim to a given space, share supplies and skills, and provide a peer group in and through which reputation is maintained. Alternative spatial arrangements, such as work in herb shops and independent henna shops, correspond with greater conformity to gender norms.

Economic anthropology of bazaar-type markets for material goods has developed a model of markets under uncertain conditions through microscopic analyses of seller–buyer relationships. The model implies that serious lack of information makes the individuals highly risk-averse and leads to long-term, balanced clientelization. Presented in this chapter is another model of uncertain market conditions. In a bazaar-type market of interpersonal service the individuals are likely to be both chance-seekers as well as risk-averters. Such an attitude derives from a combination of unique service characteristics and uncertain market conditions. Transactions of commodified sexual services (termed here “interpersonally embedded services”) among chance-seekers in bangkok go-go bars often result in disequilibration, rather than equilibration, of the seller–buyer relationship.

This contribution analyses marketing strategies of transnational corporations operating in the field of consumer goods in contemporary Egypt. Using anthropological methodology, I explore the interrelations between rural marketing and consumer intifada, and note that in contrast to commonly held views about the homogenisation of local consumer cultures, in the sense of a Coca-Colaisation process, corporate communications strategies and product policies over the past decade have been increasingly taking cultural spheres of meaning into account in their effort to penetrate the Egyptian mass market. Various indicators show that the relevance of producing and marketing standardised goods has been diminishing as compared to the key importance of adapting global products to the local setting with its various cultural and political components.

In this study I explore how practices and creativity in the commercial context conceptualize death in the changing styles of funerals by depicting the supply of contemporary funeral services. The cases are primarily based on ethnographic accounts derived from my fieldwork in Japanese funeral homes. I focus on the work and efforts of the funeral industry that make innovative services to shape and shift a set of cultural values and practices in the funerals of today.

This chapter is a comparison of fictive kin choice patterns in an interior frontier community in Paraguay over the history of that community. I gathered the data in 1984–1986, 1990–1991, 1995, and 2003. At each stage of the research, I assumed that there would be some measurable shift to fictive kin choices from horizontal local choices to vertical choices outside of the community due to infrastructure changes and increased access to markets.

This chapter claims that there are characteristics of the institutional structure of some indigenous societies that in some cases prevent economic development by complicating the emergence of extra-family networks (social capital), and the transition from personal to impersonal exchange; this is illustrated in the context of the Wayúu people from the Guajira Peninsula of Colombia. They have a strong tradition of craft production, which has changed much in recent years due to exigencies of Wayúu and non-Wayúu consumers. Foreign elements, such as commercial brands, are commonly included today in their traditional crafts, sometimes even replacing conventional motifs. However, artisans behave strategically – selling different designs to different markets. The main economic difficulties of the Wayúu artisans are related to the lack of commercialization of their products. From an institutional analysis perspective, the absence of extra-family social and commercial networks in locations relatively far from markets, it is argued, is one of the factors explaining these problems. It is suggested also that the promotion of cooperatives should be attempted from the bottom-up given the particular legal characteristics of this society.

Those who know it, believe it

Those who don’t know it, don’t believe it

We who know, believe it

– Old Wayúu proverb

This chapter examines Karl Polanyi's critique of formalism in economics and his case for a more institutional economics based upon a reconstitution of the facts of economic life on as wide an historical basis as possible. The argument below reviews Polanyi's argument with regard to the relation between economic anthropology and comparative economics, the contrast between the formalist and substantive approaches to economic analysis, the notion of an economistic fallacy, the most important limitations of the conventional formalist economics approach, and the nature and import of the new departure that Polanyi envisioned.

This chapter will address (only) one issue from the 1960s substantivist/formalist debate, the treatment of choice. The substantivists rejected the economic universality of the neoclassical axioms of choice under scarcity and the isolated and selfish nature of the choice process. A common formalist response was that their model based on these axioms could be modified to include whatever specific conditions economic choice was being made under. This chapter rejects that claim, based on a consideration not included in the debate. It is argued that the mathematical structure of the standard formal neoclassical model prevents it from incorporating the substantivist criticisms, and that to modify it in accord with these criticisms would necessarily result in a model that is outside the neoclassical approach to economic decision-making.

This study contends that the various forms of archaic trade that anthropologists have reconstructed on the Northwest Coast of America are explanatory of plot-construction and characterization in Conrad's South-American novel. My thesis is that Nostromo is a figure defined by the practice of potlatch, and that his key presence in the plot entails the representation of a culturally dislocating transition from archaic transactions to modern commerce. The theoretical framework of this chapter hinges on the insights of Marcel Mauss, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Karl Polanyi, and Georges Bataille.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Economic Anthropology
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN