Relative customers: Demand-sharing, kinship and selling in Solomon Islands
Copyright © 2017 by Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose - This chapter contributes to drawing Melanesian ethnography out of the exoticizing interest for gift exchange and demand-sharing. Furthermore, it provides an analytical perspective from which it is possible to conceptualize the manipulation of gift and commodity logics as mutually compatible frameworks. Rather than seeing them as contradictory, this perspective enables the theorization of shared calculative agencies that are becoming increasingly common in contemporary Melanesia. Methodology/approach - The chapter draws on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Gilbert Camp, a peri-urban settlement on the outskirts of Honiara, Solomon Islands with a focus on the domestic moral economy of its inhabitants. Findings - The people of Gilbert Camp are confronting a difficult economic and moral dilemma. On the one hand, they are at constant risk of financial failure because of their general conditions of scarcity. On the other, they face the prospect of disrupting some of their much-valued social relationships because such scarcity prevents them from fulfilling their cultural obligations. In order to avoid both risks, they make use of their financial competence and cultural creativity to set up strategies that save them money and preserve these relationships. Situated at the interface between kinship and market values, these strategies contribute to achieving the kind of 'good' life that they see as the correct balance between financial prosperity and morality. Originality/value - Current negotiations over the meaning of buying, selling and taking are changing the values of contemporary sociality in Honiara, Port Vila, and other Melanesian cities. Tradestores simultaneously supply households with food and money, create a sense of sharing, and limit the demand-sharing and the taking of wantoks. Hence they create the conditions for the resolution of tensions over the incompatibility of values of kinship and market that confront the inhabitants of Melanesian cities. Household tradestores thus constitute a major site of these negotiations, and they provide a unique vantage point from which to look at the moral and economic processes that are leading to the future identity of urban Melanesia.