The Kula

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's December 2001

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The Kula Annette Weiner followed the footsteps of a great anthropologist name Malinoski who was one of the first great inspirations. This caused some problems for her because she had to prove that her research was as valid as his was. She believed that a very important part of Trobriander society was a trade between men known as the Kula trade. Weiner believed that these men continued this trade for profit, not just out of custom, like Malinoski believed.

The Kula trade was a very important aspect of men's society because it brought them prestige, and bound them together in a unique way. The Kula bound them together in a unique way by creating a circle of traders, or partners, around a circle of islands. Many men were only involved in this trade for the prestige. This meant that the other men trader knew a man by name, if not by face.

These men were considered successful if other knew their name. Malinoski believed that this was the case. He did not feel that they were in it for the money. They continually traded the things that the obtained, not holding onto one thing for too long. Annette Weiner, however, believed that some men were in it for the money.

Annette Weiner saw that in the end many traders gained more than just prestige from the Kula trade. Many traders that were known by name actually profited from the Kula. They sometimes obtained many matching items, and other rare objects. This could, however, only occur for the best of the traders. As you can see this seems to contradict her predecessor's views of the true reason this trade still exists. The Kula trade is indeed a very strict form of trade, with many rules of what must occur.

The Kula trade is a very specific type of trade, with strict rules about how one can trade. This trade is so strict that only certain kinds of things can be traded. Shell armbands and necklaces are the main types of things that were traded, but other things can be introduced, but only if one could convince his partner that it is a worthy trade. One was only allowed to trade with two men. Items moved clockwise, or counter clockwise around the circle of islands. Each man had only one man to give things to, and one man to receive things from. It was very important to choose a good trader as a partner, so you could receive things that were very valuable. This exemplifies Weiner's belief that the Kula trade is continued not out of custom, but because of the money involved.

The best of these traders were quite good with their negotiations. Many had the pleasure of gaining a net profit because they were so skilled, that many gained more than they traded away. This was the dream of many of the men involved, not just the prestige that could be obtained. The more prestigious one was, the better their partner was in trade. This meant that only the best traders could gain money by the time they retired. One can now see how a man could be in the Kula for the money, and not just out of custom.

The Trobriander men used this sort of trade to bind themselves into a supportive unit. This Kula trade world was totally separate from the world that the women were involved with. Weiner and Malinoski may have opposing opinions, but in some ways, one can see how they could both be right. I suppose some of it is a matter of opinion.