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Unit 4

Terms in this set (13)

Gift exchange was one manifestation of utu, a principle which pervaded the whole of Maori life and was found in varying social context as one of the fundamental drives to action. Translated as the principle of reciprocity, of compensation in the widest sense. It was the rule that whatever one party gave to, did to or did for another must be reciprocated with a return of equivalent or higher value, either immediately or at later date. This rule applied equally to positively valued gifts such as compliments, goods and services, and to negatively valued ones, such as insults, injury and homicide. Exchange of good gifts both defined and maintained the relation as a friendly and on-going one, since at any given time one party was under obligation to the other. Similarly even enemies were bound to each other by the obligation to repay insults and injuries, though in this case the obligation was rather to themselves, since their mana was diminished by non-retaliation. Because utu united both positive and negative cases in this way, the giving of gifts could be used to transmute a hostile relation into a friendly one, as at a peace-making feast, or to prevent a friendly one being disrupted, as when a member of one hap injured a member of another in the same tribe. To fail to give or receive utu diminished the mana of both parties and place the relation in jeopardy. So too did giving to excess, since it made it difficult for the receiver to make a worthy return. The moral principle of utu was thus reinforced by both social and religious sanctions.