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Bronislaw Malinowski's Kula Ring (1922) and Franz Boas's potlatch system of the Kwakiutl Indians (1897) are classics in the anthropological literature on the ceremonial or gift exchange that exists in non-Western “stateless” tribal societies.

The Kula Ring of the Trobriand Islands

The Kula Ring is a gift-exchange system carried on by different East Papuo-Melansian tribal communities located in a ring of islands, hence the ring structure of the Kula. Twice each year, “Big-Men” of the various tribes lead large canoe expeditions to visit their Kula partners.

Strict rules govern Kula exchange. The gifts exchanged must be two different kinds of valuables of equivalent value, traveling in opposite directions in the Kula. The giver must give a necklace to a Kula partner located in a clockwise direction from the ...

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