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Economy and Ritual: Studies in Postsocialist Transformations

Stephen Gudeman
Chris Hann
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    Economy and Ritual
    Book Description:

    According to accepted wisdom, rational practices and ritual action are opposed. Rituals drain wealth from capital investment and draw on a mode of thought different from practical ideas. The studies in this volume contest this view. Comparative, historical, and contemporary, the six ethnographies extend from Macedonia to Kyrgyzstan. Each one illuminates the economic and ritual changes in an area as it emerged from socialism and (re-)entered market society. Cutting against the idea that economy only means markets and that market action exhausts the meaning of economy, the studies show that much of what is critical for a people's economic life takes place outside markets and hinges on ritual, understood as the negation of the everyday world ofeconomising.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-570-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Map of Field Sites for Economy and Ritual Group
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Introduction. Ritual, Economy, and the Institutions of the Base
    (pp. 1-30)
    Stephen Gudeman and Chris Hann

    From pig-sticking to displaying barrels of wine, from large private weddings to modest community festivities, and from helping kin dry tobacco leaves to offering a sheep’s head in honor of a senior male, the rituals explored in this volume all have to do with economy. This is our puzzle and theme. What is the connection of economy and ritual, and what does it tell us about the changing postsocialist regions in which the members of our group worked?

    The Economy and Ritual group consisted of six anthropologists who worked together at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle,...

  7. 1 Economy as Ritual. The Problems of Paying in Wine
    (pp. 31-51)
    Jennifer Cash

    Although “ritual” is sometimes defined only by reference to its structure or form as a “performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not encoded by the performers” (Rappaport 1992), most uses of the term within anthropology and ritual studies continue to be influenced by earlier approaches (e.g., Turner 1969) and reference events and practices that also interrupt, punctuate, or transform a larger flow of sequenced activities. From this perspective, ritual is normally assumed to be extraordinary, even though it is not independent of the everyday mundane concerns of politics, economy, or social hierarchy. Rituals reinforce...

  8. 2. Animals in the Kyrgyz Ritual Economy: Symbolic and Moral Dimensions of Economic Embedding
    (pp. 52-78)
    Nathan Light

    This chapter is an attempt to understand the economic and social uses of animals and meat in a Kyrgyz village.¹ I present data about food and animal production, circulation, and consumption in one community, drawing comparisons to feasting and gift exchange in nearby regions of Central Asia. After describing profound changes in Kyrgyz economic and social life and the enduring importance of animal exchange as a cultural focus, I limit my anthropological analysis to discussing symbolic and moral dimensions of material exchange within ritual feasting. I argue that these are the key to the embedding of the animal economy within...

  9. 3. From Pig-Sticking to Festival: Changes in Pig-Sticking Practices in the Hungarian Countryside
    (pp. 79-106)
    Bea Vidacs

    In this chapter I examine the practice of pig-sticking (the winter slaughtering of a pig for home use,disznóölés) in the eastern Hungarian village of Szentpéterszeg, which I have known for more than three decades.¹ More specifically, I analyze its impending disappearance or transformation from a private (house-based) event to a community-based public celebration. The practice had great significance in traditional peasant life for provisioning households with meat, bacon, and sausages, and above all lard, which used to be the sole form of fat used in cooking. Edit Fél and Tamás Hofer described the economic role of the practice in...

  10. 4. Kurban: Shifting Economy and the Transformations of a Ritual
    (pp. 107-136)
    Detelina Tocheva

    The profound economic upheavals in the Bulgarian countryside after the fall of socialism were accompanied by significant transformations in ritual life. If in some respects ritual activity sharply declined as a result of the economic downturn (Creed 2002), in other respects rural areas became the cradle of ritual creativity (Creed 2011). Instead of following the economic depression, the ritual that I examine has been thriving in a period marked by social disjuncture and a crumbling economy. In the village of Belan in the southern Rhodope Mountains, a new type of springkurbanritual, related to sheep breeding in the past...

  11. 5. The Trader’s Wedding: Ritual Inflation and Money Gifts in Transylvania
    (pp. 137-165)
    Monica Vasile

    After the collapse of socialism, mountainous rural communities in Transylvania, western Romania, experienced an unprecedented economic boom that was accompanied by spectacularly inflated wedding feasts. Compared to other rural areas in Romania and Europe, the opulence and scale of the “wedding business” (nunta-afacere) of this region is unique. A central element of these events is the gifting of large sums of money to the new couple by all guests at their banquet. The cash-gifts involve the community at large, a community that is not understood territorially (although it sometimes overlaps with a village) but as a large pool of relatives,...

  12. 6. “We don’t have work. We just grow a little tobacco.”: Household Economy and Ritual Effervescence in a Macedonian Town
    (pp. 166-191)
    Miladina Monova

    This chapter explores changes within the household economy in the post-socialist, post-Yugoslav town of Prilep, and the way in which these transformations mirror changes in social and ritual relationships.¹ Specifically, I examine the production of tobacco and theslavaritual, which here refers to the celebration of the household patron saint.² I juxtapose the household-based “tobacco-growing configuration” with the “slavafeasting configuration” and find them to be almost perfectly congruent. In a context of economic hardship, former factory workers holding casual jobs, often within the grey economy, retreat into the household economy, and therefore rely more on kinship and friendship...

  13. Appendix. The “Economy and Ritual” Project and the Field Questionnaire
    (pp. 192-197)
  14. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 198-199)
  15. Index
    (pp. 200-204)