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Where goods are free but knowledge costs: Hunter-gatherer ritual economics in Western Central Africa

Lewis, JD; (2015) Where goods are free but knowledge costs: Hunter-gatherer ritual economics in Western Central Africa. Hunter Gatherer Research , 1 (1) pp. 1-27. 10.3828/hgr.2015.2. Green open access

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Abstract

Forest hunter-gatherers in Western Central Africa participate in an unusual economic system that transacts material production in a very different way to intellectual production. While material goods, such as food, tools or clothing, are generally freely given when demanded, intellectual goods, such as the right to perform specific rituals or to receive certain remedies, are exchanged for goods and money. These hunter-gatherer groups trade certain types of knowledge for material goods with each other, but never trade material goods for other material goods with each other, despite doing so with neighbouring farmers. They simply demand them from one another. The distribution of key aspects of this economic system across linguistic and international frontiers suggests that it is likely to have great antiquity. The hunter-gatherer ritual system is valued for immediately producing goods. This contrasts with cult associations among farming societies in Central and West Africa that focus on ensuring that goods will come in the future.

Type: Article
Title: Where goods are free but knowledge costs: Hunter-gatherer ritual economics in Western Central Africa
Location: UK
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3828/hgr.2015.2
Publisher version: http:dx.doi.org/10.3828/hgr.2015.2
Language: English
Additional information: © Liverpool University Press. This article was published Open Access under a CC BY licence.
Keywords: religion, ritual associations, property rights, intellectual property, sharing, Aka, Baka, Mbendjele, Pygmy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473991
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