• Part of
    Ubiquity Network logo
    Publish with us Download book proposal form

    Read Chapter
  • No readable formats available
  • New lessons from old shells: Changing perspectives on the Kula

    Roger M. Keesing

    Chapter from the book: Siikala, J. 2021. Culture and History in the Pacific.


    The kula partners of the Melanesian Massim have been one of anthropology's most compelling and influential and enduring images of Otherness, created both by Malinowski's rhetorical power and the sheer fascination they themselves engender. Malinowski saw in the kula lessons for the social science of his time, as well as popular stereotypes, for example the critique of the ostensibly universal figure of the Homo economicus. While anthropology's fashions have changed, and what there ever was of a "primitive" world has been overturned, engulfed, and obliterated, the fascination of the kula has endured. Indeed, this fascination has been a lure helping to attract further generations of fieldworkers to Malinowski's Trobriands and other islands of the kula "ring." Assessing the new evidence, I will suggest that the emerging picture has important implications not only for our understanding of the region and the phenomenon, but for the way we think about Alterity, about "primitive society", a world that never existed, and about anthropology's Orientalist project of representing radical cultural difference to the West. The new perspectives on Massim exchange exemplify directions in which contemporary anthropology has been moving, and provide some useful insights about where and how it needs now to move.

    Chapter Metrics:

    How to cite this chapter
    Keesing, R. 2021. New lessons from old shells: Changing perspectives on the Kula. In: Siikala, J (ed.), Culture and History in the Pacific. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-12-10

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

    Peer Review Information

    This book has been peer reviewed. See our Peer Review Policies for more information.

    Additional Information

    Published on Sept. 29, 2021


    comments powered by Disqus