Seldom Ask, Never Tell: Labor and Discourse in Appalachia

By Anita Puckett | Go to book overview

2 POSSESSIVE CONSTRUCTIONS AND LINGCAISTIC-ECONOMICS

"Whose girl are you?"

A heated debate in the community over the "rights" of an elderly couple, former administrative staff of the Environmental Center, to continue living at the center includes extended discussions by the descendants of the original donor of the center's land about "their" center. [notes 5/86]

A man's dog is poisoned by some unidentified agent for some reason that can only be speculated upon by the dog's owner. [notes 3/86]

A conversation with Tom about beans while in what he calls "his garden" and his wife Mary calls "the garden" includes him saying "them's hers," pointing to a bushel of picked green beans. "Hers" references Mary, who has not been mentioned previously in the conversation. [notes 8/85]

SOCIOECONOMIES REQUIRE CULTURALLY BASED EXPRESSIONS of ownership, control, or possession of valued entities, whether by individuals, corporations, supernatural powers, or some other cultural category, in order to direct the ebb and flow of resources within a cultural arena. 1 As studies in nonmonetary exchange have demonstrated, any given set of cultural practices will emphasize one or several of these types of possession over the full range of possibilities. Recent anthropological scholarship in exchange systems details clear linkages between culturally constructed concepts of ownership and patterns in the distribution of resources. 2

Furthermore, recent scholarship applying Peircian semiotics has taken the give- and-take focus of these exchange transactions into dynamic, evolving relations of sociomaterial interactions. 3 Under this type of reanalysis, the purpose of an exchange event can be explored constitutively, as a choice in constructing social

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