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Essay Example on Cultural Anthropology: Ongka's Big Moka

3 pages
580 words
University of Richmond
Type of paper: 
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Concepts: Delayed reciprocity; three obligations in use-value societies; balanced reciprocity; tradition; and symbol

One-sentence answer:

Ongka gives a Moka to establish power and prestige, keep the peace, maintain social ties and alliance between the giver and the people involved including the community and trading partners.


Ongkas motivation for giving the Moka were both altruistic and self-serving. These motivations reveal the core principles of use-value culture, including delayed reciprocity, three obligations in use-value societies; balanced reciprocity, tradition, and symbol. According to Welsch and Vivanco (2015), delayed reciprocity occurs when there is a long time lag between giving and receiving. Ongka does not have enough pigs to give during the Moka. However, he receives Moka from people he had given Moka to for the past four years. The prolonged period it took for him to receive Moka illustrates delayed reciprocity. Reciprocity binds and confirms relationships.

Ongkas motivation also reveals the use of symbols in the use value societies. Symbols are entities that represent something else (Welsch & Vivanco, 2015). Pigs symbolize wealth and power. According to Angka, a person who lacks pigs is rubbish. Pigs allow a person to give Moka, marry and pay for troubles. Pigs are to the Kawelka tribe what money is to modern societies. The Moka feast is also a symbol of power and prestige. Angkas prestige will be proven by the number of guests that will attend the feats and bring other gifts such as magic, dance, pigs, and shells. Although these gifts have no immediate use, there are symbolic. Ongka claims that although he might lose his investment, he will not lose the prestige brought by the Moka feast.

During the Moka feast, Ongka expects to receive gifts. His prestige and social standing are dependent on both the turnout and gifts presented by the guests. According to Welsch and Vivanco (2015), balanced reciprocity occurs when a person gives a gift but expects that the receiver will reciprocate with an equivalent favor or gift.

The three obligations in use-value societies include the obligation to give, obligation to receive, and the obligation to return the gift in equivalent form. Given that the receiver is indebted until he/she has given back an equivalent gift, the gift system establishes is used to establish competition for power and prestige. The obligation to give establishes the giver as generous and worthy of respect, obligation to receive reveals respect to the giver while the obligation to give back establishes honor (Welsch & Vivanco, 2015).

Angkas motivation also reveals the traditions of the Kawelka tribe. Traditions are enduring rituals in a culture (Welsch & Vivanco, 2015). In giving Moka, there are rituals that are to be observed. In arranging the feast, Angka cannot force anyone to participate. He uses his oratory and persuasion skills to make the Moka feast successful. Other rituals followed include rearing the pigs, collecting shells and using magic to ensure favorable weather during the feast. All these show the traditions of the Kawelka people, and although many of these rituals cannot be explained logically, there are able to stand the test of time as they are deemed as central to the culture of the tribe. This tradition has both economic and social implication. It allows the exchange of good while maintaining relationships among community members and trading partners.



Ongka's Big Moka [Video file]. (2017, January 22). Retrieved from

Welsch, R. L., & Vivanco, L. A. (2016). Asking questions about cultural anthropology: A concise introduction.


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