Accepted paper:

"Mutuality's tension" or, is economy to ritual as competition is to mutuality? Some reflections from Muslim Bosnia


David Henig (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

The paper amplifies the model ‘economy’s tension’. It explores human propensity for mutuality as instantiated in economy and ritual. Can ‘mutuality’s tension’ be a model in which economy and ritual meet?

Paper long abstract:

The idea of 'mutuality' has gained a wide range of meanings spanning from cooperation or competition to sociality and intersubjectivity. This paper explores 'mutuality', understood in the minimal sense as 'mutual awareness', as instantiated in economy and ritual. It amplifies Gudeman's model 'the tension of economy' understood as a contradictory dialectics between calculative competition and mutuality. What if competition, that necessarily requires recognition of the other, is viewed as a radical (or negative) form of mutuality? Such a phenomenological twist reanimates the 'economy's tension' model into an alternative one: mutuality's tension. The tension of mutuality could be understood then as a contradictory dialectics between modes of mutuality. In arguing so, the paper sheds light on changes in economy and ritual in post-socialist, post-war Muslim Bosnia. The modes of mutuality between persons implicated in everyday economic conduct have traditionally been shaped in rural Bosnia by two processes, ritual and exchange, and have been encompassed in the rhetoric of generalised reciprocity. Socialist modernisation of the countryside and the violent breakup of Yugoslavia considerably disintegrated these processes, and multiplied and monetised earlier forms of exchange. I have argued elsewhere that what underlies everyday forms of exchange for Bosnian Muslims today is a 'halal exchange' that differs from mere calculative reasoning. In this paper I illustrate the ways 'halal exchange' is particularly elaborated in the ritual of sacrifice (kurban bajram), and emanates into the spheres of everyday economic conduct, and thereby moulds and directs the modes of mutuality between 'trading' persons.

panel W120
Economy and ritual