Accepted paper:

Beyond Price, Value or Worth: Reflections on the theme of investment in 'No Money on Our Skins'


Karen Sykes (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers why some social relationships amongst youth become valuable and are convertible into money, or not, by drawing on some insights into the questions as raised by Strathern's early work, 'No Money on Our Skins'.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers one of Strathern's early monographs "No Money on Our Skins" that describes the social dilemma of Hagen youth as migrant workers in Port Moresby, and asks what insights can be drawn from that book for understanding how social relationships become valuable. The etymology of the word 'invest' shows that in the medieval era it referred to the symbolic transfer of the power of office to a specific individual, as when robing a bishop in the vestments of religious office. By the 16th century it meant the transformation of wealth from one form into another, as when people invested money in land and its ownership in processes of capital creation that continued for the last three centuries. It is only in the very last generation that contemporary processes of investment make social relationships themselves into valuables which may ensure specific forms of social life, are convertible into money, or not. In conclusion, I hesitate to suggest that whereas some relationships might be truly priceless, for the rest, 'there is mastercard'.

panel P17
Anthropological relationships as appropriations and investments: ASA-sponsored panel in honour of Marilyn Strathern