Bilinda Straight                                                                                               ANTH 4600



Money, Consumption, and Cannibals


What do vampires, the devil, and cannibals have to do with money or commodities?  Does money mean the same thing to all people?  How do individuals in different societies make sense of western currencies and the abundance of goods available to them (whether in reality or fantasy)?  We’ll answer these and other questions in this course which focuses on the meaning of money and commodities cross-culturally.  A growing number of anthropologists are asking questions relating to global capitalism that move beyond facile assumptions about the use of money in “non-western” economies.  In order to enter into this lively debate, we will begin the course with a few lectures and key readings delving into contemporary interpretations of the terms we will be concerned with throughout the course.  We will also familiarize ourselves with classic anthropological notions about the distinction between money and gift economies.  The rest of the course will be devoted to breaking down such distinctions and exploring the diverse ways in which individual societies have dealt with the problem of money and commoditization.  We will see how money finds its way into practices ranging from weddings to spirit possessions and how money and goods are gendered in different societies.  Finally, we will explore the ways in which money and goods--and often the whiteness associated with their introduction--can have literally monstrous connotations.


Course Readings


Required Books:  The following required books are available for purchase at WMU’s Bookstore:


J. Parry and M. Bloch, eds. (1989) Money and the Morality of Exchange.  Cambridge: 

            University of Cambridge Press.

Patricia Spyer, ed. (1998) Border Fetishisms:  Material Objects in Unstable Spaces.  N.Y.:            Routledge.

Annette Weiner (1992) Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-While-Giving. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.


Recommended Book: Marcel Mauss (1906), The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies.  N.Y.:  W.W. Norton and Company.


Course Packet:  A packet of required readings will be on reserve at Waldo Library.
Grading (See Grading Key for complete instructions)


            Attendance                  15%                 Prospectus for Final Essay     10%

            Responses                   20%                 Preliminary Bibliography       15%

            Presentations              10%                 Final Essay                             30%


In a class of this kind and size, your presence and participation are essential to the quality of the experience for others as well as yourself.  Your attendance grade will be based on the number of days you are absent, calculated as points missed on a one-hundred percent scale.  Two are the most absences allowed for an ‘A’, and the grade will go down with each a

dditional day missed.  Papers will be graded on content, style, and mechanics.  A full grade will be deducted for each day a paper is late.  Extensions are given only because of illness or serious extenuating personal circumstances.  Extensions will not be given because of conflicts with assignments in other classes.


There will be no exams in this class.  Students will write weekly one-page responses to the readings (20% of grade).  These should include very brief summaries and at least a paragraph of critique (per reading).


Presentations (10% of grade):

Working with a partner, all students will sign up to assist in facilitating one class discussion.  Reading additional sources to present to enhance the discussion is encouraged but not required.  What is required is that you are well-prepared, with thoughtful questions and possibly an activity.


Writing Assignments:


Prospectus for Final Essay (10% of grade):  This will be a 2-3 page essay discussing the theoretical perspective and topic you will pursue for your final paper.  It should be written in a clear, essay style, containing a preliminary argument and topic and the kinds of material (essays, books, popular media, local fieldwork) you will use to pursue that argument.


Preliminary Bibliography (15% of grade):  This will be an annotated bibliography of sources you are using so far in your paper.  Write a one-paragraph summary for each of 4 or 5 sources, and a sentence or two of how they should be useful to your paper.  Include full bibliographic information for each of these sources, and do not include course readings!  Course readings should be used for your paper where appropriate but do not count towards this assignment.  (Recommended readings can be used though).  You must limit yourself to one web site source only, and use at least one book.


Final Essay (30% of grade):  This will be a 12-15 page research essay.  (I will read slightly longer essays.)  It can be on a topic of your choice, which is relevant to the course readings.  Local fieldwork and/or  original research with popular media is highly encouraged for this project, and we will discuss methods in class.  If you have difficulty in coming up with a topic, please feel free to see me. Include a bibliography for anything you cite, and for readings you already know you will be using.  When you cite, quote, or paraphrase in text, put an in-text citation in parentheses (author’s last name, date, page number if a direct quote).  It looks like this:  (Straight 1997) or (Straight 1997: 37).

Bilinda Straight’s

Grading Key


All essay grades appear as a quantitative grade. All quantitative semester grades are multiplied by the percentage of the spread they represent. Thus, if attendance is worth 20% of the grade, it would be calculated as follows: If you were absent 5 times out of 30 total class days, you would be counted as absent 3 times (2 days of grace). 3 out of 30 is 10 percent absence, or 90% presence. So you have a 90 on attendance, multiplied by 20% of the spread, gives you 18. All grades thus calculated are added together to equal the total percentage out of one hundred. Your semester grade is then calculated as per the key below.


                                    Grade Scale for Final Grades


97-100                 A+


94-96                   A


87-93                   BA


84-86                   B


77-83                   CB


74-76                   C


67-73                   DC


60-66                   D


below 60              E

Reading Schedule:




Wednesday, September 4


            Introduction to course plan and requirements.  Lecture on objects, value, meaning. 

            Individual sharing about objects.






Monday, September 9


Read (CP) Mauss pp. 1-18.  


Wednesday, September 11


Read (CP) Mauss pp. 19-46 AND pp. 100-102--footnote 29.


Friday, September 13


Read (CP) Levi-Strauss, “Selections from Introduction to the Work of Marcel Mauss,”

pp. 45-69.


Monday, September 16: 


Read (CP) Marx (McLellan, ed.) “On James Mill,” pp. 114-123.


Wednesday, September 18


            Read Spyer Chapter Seven:  Peter Stallybrass, “Marx’s Coat” (pp. 183-207).





Friday, September 20


            Read Parry and Bloch, Chapter One:  Jonathan Parry and Maurice Bloch, “Introduction: 

            Money and the Morality of Exchange” (pp. 1-32).


Monday, September 23



            Read Parry and Bloch, Chapter Three:  Jonathan Parry, “On the Moral Perils of

            Exchange” (pp. 64-93).

Wednesday, September 25


            Read Parry and Bloch, Chapter Four:  R. L. Sirrat, “Money, Men and Women” (pp. 94-



Friday, September 27


            Read Parry and Bloch, Chapter Five:  Janet Carsten, “Cooking Money:  Gender and the

            Symbolic Transformation of Means of Exchange in a Malay Fishing Community” (pp.



Monday, September 30


            Read Parry and Bloch, Chapter Seven:  Maurice Bloch, “The Symbolism of Money in

            Imerina” (pp. 165-190).


Wednesday, October 2


            Read Parry and Bloch, Chapter Nine:  M. J. Sallnow, “Precious Metals in the Andean

            Moral Economy” (pp. 209-231).


Friday, October 4 


            Read Parry and Bloch, Chapter Ten:  Olivia Harris, “The Earth and the State:  The

            Sources and Meanings of Money in Northern Potosi, Bolivia” (pp. 232-268).




Monday, October 7


Read Introduction in Annette Weiner, Inalienable Possessions.


Wednesday, October 9


            Read Weiner, Chapter One.


Friday, October 11


            Read Weiner, Chapter Two.


Monday, October 14


            Read Weiner, Chapter Three. Prospectus Due.                   


Wednesday, October 16


            Read Weiner, Chapter Four.


Friday, October 18


            Read Weiner, Chapter Five and Afterword.


Monday, October 21


Read Spyer, “Introduction” (pp. 1-11) and (CP) Appadurai “Introduction to The Social

Life of Things.”


Wednesday, October 23


Read Spyer, Chapter One:  Webb Keane, “Calvin in the Tropics:  Objects and Subjects at

            the Religious Frontier” (pp. 13-34).  


Friday, October 25


Read Spyer, Chapter Two:  Susan Legene, “From Brooms to Obea and Back:  Fetish

Conversion and Border Crossings in Nineteenth-Century Suriname” (pp. 35-59).


Monday, October 28


            Read Spyer, Chapter Three:  Robert J. Foster, “Your Money, Our Money, the      Government’s Money:  Finance and Fetishism in Melanesia” (pp. 60-90).


Wednesday, October 30


Read Spyer, Chapter Four:  Peter Pels, “The Spirit of the Matter:  On Fetish, Rarity, Fact,

and Fancy” (pp. 91-121).


Friday, November  1


Read Spyer Chapter Five:  Adela Pinch, “Stealing Happiness:  Shoplifting in Early

Nineteenth-Century England” (pp. 122-149).           


Monday, November 4


Read Spyer Chapter Six:  Patricia Spyer, “The Tooth of Time, or Taking a Look at the

“Look” of Clothing in Late Nineteenth-Century Aru” (pp. 150-182). Preliminary Bibliography Due.              


Wednesday, November 6


Read Spyer Chapter Eight:  Annelies Moors, “Wearing Gold” (pp. 208-223).







Friday, November  8


Read (CP) Michael Taussig (2002). The Genesis of Capitalism Amongst a South

American Peasantry: Devil’s Labor and the Baptism of Money,” a reprint of Chapter

Seven of his The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (1980).


Monday, November  11


Read (CP) Peter Gose (1986) “Sacrifice and the Commodity Form in the Andes” MAN 21

(2): 296-310.


Wednesday, November  13


Read (CP) Rosalind Shaw (2001). “Cannibal Transformations: Colonialism and

Commodification in the Sierra Leone Hinterland.” Pp. 50-70 In Henrietta L. Moore and

Todd Sanders (eds.) Magical Interpretations, Material Realities. New York, NY:



Friday, November  15


Read (CP) Luise White (1993) “Cars Out of Place:  Vampires, Technology and Labor in

East and Central Africa” Representations 43: 27-50.


Monday, November  18


Read (CP) Brad Weiss (1998) “Electric Vampires:  Haya Rumors of the Commodified

Body,” pp. 172-194.  (In Lambek and Strathern, eds.).        




Monday, November  25


Read (CP) Pamela Schmoll (1993) “Black Stomachs, Beautiful Stones:  Soul-Eating

            Among Hausa in Niger.  Pp. 193-220 In Jean and John Comaroff (eds) Modernity and Its

            Malcontents:  Ritual and Power in Postcolonial Africa.  Chicago:  University of Chicago





Monday, December 2


Read (CP) Adeline Masquelier (2000). “Of Headhunters and Cannibals: Migrancy, Labor

            and Consumption in the Mawri Imagination.” Cultural Anthropology 15(1): 84-126.



Wednesday, December 4

Read (CP) Todd Sanders (2001). “Save Our Skins: Structural Adjustment, Morality and

the Occult in Tanzania.” Pp. 160-183 In Henrietta L. Moore and Todd Sanders (eds.)

Magical Interpretations, Material Realities. New York, NY: Routledge.



Friday, December 6


            Sharing projects. Conclusion. *Early Bird Final Essay Deadline for 5 bonus points.*


Monday, December 9th


Final Essays Due in My Mailbox.  No Exceptions.