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kula ringa system of reciprocal exchange found in the Melanesian Islands. It was described by MALINOWSKI in his Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922). Within the Trobriand Islands, certain groups of tribes on specific islands continually exchange ritual objects. Necklaces circulate in one direction around the ring, and armshells in the other. He saw the long journeys and extensive ceremonials required in order to service the practice as functionally necessary to ensure the stability of this group of communities. Integrative patterns of status and prestige are produced which are often compared to those produced by the POTLATCH system of the Canadian Northwest. The emphasis on the importance of exchange is paralleled in the theories of M. Mauss and LÉVI-STRAUSS. see also EXCHANGE THEORY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000