ASSIGNMENT ON MARVIN HARRIS WORK ON POTLATCH
The Potlatch is basically a gift-giving festival practiced by indigenous people living mainly along the Northwest Pacific Ocean. It was indirectly an economic practice which helped people at that time. At a Potlatch gathering it required a leader to host guests and hold feasts for them and also to share wealth. Here the leader gives most if not all his wealth as gifts to gain or maintain a high social status. 1.
Marvin Harris describes the Potlatch as more than just an insane pursuit for social status. He rather suggests that the Potlatch is a rational response to some social and economic forces. Whiles acknowledging the important functions of the Potlatch which contributes to the overall wellbeing of the society, he also concedes the fact that it involves fierce competition for status and prestige in the society. It is thus a mechanism for economic distribution. Thus other small groups would work harder to produce more so as to attain social recognition, thus resulting in an increase in productivity all year round. 2.
Potlatch could be seen as a form of competitive feasting. This is as a result of redistribution of accumulated wealth made through production. This accumulated wealth is given to guests by leaders of groups in search of higher social status. In return the guests also attempt to give more than what they were given when it is their time for Potlatch. Thus they strive to increase production. This is a very important aspect, it helps even when it is considered a lean season for another group they would at least have something to survive on since another group is so desperate to impress them so as to attain a higher social recognition. This is also described as an economic exchange. 3.
The article is about the Kwakiutl people and other Native American groups, located in British Columbia who practiced Potlatch. An anthropologist named Franz Boas used the name Kwakiutl to refer to an ethno-linguistic...
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