Anthony Pickles, Postdoctoral Fellow, Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge and Junior Research Fellow, Trinity College

Transferring the Gift: Transfers and a Micro-Analytical Terminology of Transaction (+ some Gambling)

In the language of the 'gift', of 'exchange', and 'reciprocity', gambling is an aberration. It fits no category well, for the aim is to induce a transfer of wealth to a player without the necessity of obligation and without direct reciprocal valuation. Based on fieldwork in the supposedly gift-centred Papua New Guinea Highlands (which, like most of the rest of the Pacific, once lacked gambling altogether) I try to construct a terminology that includes all kinds of transactions without prior etic privilege. I build transactional forms, viewing them as achievements brought about through the coordination of their component 'transfers', the units of economic value that move. The aim is not to deny reciprocity or obligation, or to impose an itenerant perspective, because I make no assertions about underlying motivations. Instead I aim to foreground the inclusion of the prospecting work that makes up so much of people's efforts to secure obligation or finality, and to analyse the many attempts that fail on an equal footing to those that elicit returns or sever ties. This presentation is the first public testing of this position.

Anthony Pickles conducted long term ethnographic research in Papua New Guinea on gambling, and received his PhD in 2013 from the University of St Andrews. Anthony is currently a Research Fellow at Trinity College Cambridge, and will begin a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship in January 2017, also at Cambridge. He will be investigating the emergence and proliferation of forms of gambling across the Pacific from 1880 until the present, including new fieldwork in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

All seminars in the series.