Functional Aspects of the Kula Trade

Malinowski initially presents the Kula trade in The Argonauts of the Pacific in a more basic manner. He characterizes it as an extensive kind of exchange that is heavily infused with inter-tribal interactions. Some of the communities that reside in a huge ring of islands that eventually forms a closed circuit engage in this practice. This kind of exchange is conducted in accordance with a set of norms, including tight regulations governing the exchange procedure and publicly visible magical ritual rites and ceremonies. Articles of trade in the Kula Trade are of two types, namely, long red necklaces made from shell referred to as the “soulava” and white shell bracelets referred to as the “mwali.” These articles move in opposite directions with the “soulava” moving in a clockwise manner while the “mwali” moves in the anticlockwise direction (Malinowski, 50). The Kula Trade, characterized by some features, is responsible for structuring this kind of exchange into a significant and highly complex institution. One is that this ceremony can only have the participation of a limited number of men from each island, the articles are never static at one destination, and the exchange partners are in a lifetime relationship, not to mention a few.

Once functional aspect of the Kula Trade is the economic angle it incorporates in the exchange process. The social relationship that is formed from this kind of exchange which is ceremonial occurs another type of secondary activity that happens simultaneously, the barter of commodities. These commodities, also known as “gimwali,” are traded by individuals of different tribes through the use of middlemen. These Kula partners do not involve in any haggling within themselves but only do so within their villages

Another aspect of the Kula Trade is the psychological facet that regulated the norms within this society and actions of individuals involved in the Kula trade system. To note is how the individual needs were turned into a form of societal norm through the application of symbols and bore the responsibility of a person’s behavior. An excellent example of this characteristic is in the book where Malinowski states that the sentimental value that a gift carries is lost if the individual in the Kula system was to trade it in the opposite direction. The consequence would be that the person would face disbarment from the Kula trade or ridicule. As such, any person in the Kula trade would try as much as possible to conform to the societal norms set out by traditions and rules.

Furthermore, the sociological function of the Kula trade was to foster good relationships between the different tribes inhabiting the Trobriand Islands. This aspect was fostered through the ceremonial exchange that occurred between partners in the Kula trade. A host would present the first gift and in turn be, given a Kula gift which he would reciprocate in a year or two with an equivalent offering. Moreover, this exchange fostered long-term relationships which were strengthened by mortuary rites. Important to note is that the link is further augmented through the process of Kula trade individuals being introduced by their relatives which created some form of trustworthiness in the trade bond.

One prominent custom in our society that a person might find strange is the Halloween celebration. It is a celebration that is usually marked on 31st October to remember the saints and martyrs together with the faithful what have left us. It is characterized by costume parties, the lighting of bonfire parties, pulling pranks, games of divination to mention a few. It is a strange American custom that many find bizarre, but we celebrate it not knowing the full implications of it its observance.


Malinowski, B. (2002). Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An account of native enterprise and adventure in the archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. Routledge.

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