Aarhus Universitetsforlag

A Papuan Plutocracy

Ranked Exchange on Rossel Island

A part of the subject areas and

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376 pages
ISBN 978 87 7934 446 4



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About the book

The financial crisis has shown how money can become an instrument for power and greed. The nature of money and financial institutions has again become issues of importance. This will also be the case in anthropology.

John Liep's long awaited monograph on Rossel Island in Papua New Guinea analyzes an alternative monetary system. Liep studied the indigenous shell money for two years. The money is ranked in twenty classes. It is not a mean of market exchange but measure value in terms of status difference. It is paid in bridewealth, at pig feasts and for status symbols such as houses and canoes. Old big men exchange shells of high rank and dominate the economic system. They have prohibited the paying of bridewealth in modern money and thereby maintain their power over junior men and women.

John Liep's book advances the understanding of ranked exchange and of the origin of money as a token of distinction and power. It is richly illustrated with photos and drawings of which many are in colour.

Press reviews

Anne Knudsen Weekendavisen

"Enestående, dansk disputats om et af samfundsteoriernes mest omdiskuterede og indviklede problemer. Den definitive kortlægning og fortolkning af skalpengene på den lille ø Rossel øst for Papua New Guinea.

Men intet problem har vist sig så besværligt at udrede som skalpengene på øen Rossel. Derfor vækker den danske antropolog John Lieps livssværk om Rossel kolossal opmærksomhed over hele verden (...).

Antropologen Liep er uden tvivl den forsker i verden, som har den mest omfattende viden om, hvad skalpengene på Rossel egentlig er for et fænomen; han har siden 1972 studeret pengenes anvendelse og betydning."

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