Wiessner, Pauline Wilson, 1947-. Hxaro: a regional system of reciprocity for reducing risk among the !Kung San

Table of Contents

Publication Information

Chapter I Theoretical Framework

Theory Of Risk Minimization

Risk Minimization In Hunter-gatherer Societies

Chapter Ii Background, Environment, Population, And Traditional Way Of Life

Background And Environment

Plant Resources

Animal Resources

The San Population

Health Status

Traditional Subsistence Strategies And Prevention Of Loss

Gathering Strategies And Allocation Of Land

Seasonal Use Of Plant Resources

Hunting Strategies

Chapter Iii Worker, Miner, Farmer, Chief, Hunter, Gatherer, Beggar, Thief?: Culture Change Hunting And Gathering A Living In Present Day Botswana

History Of Change

The Opportunities Of Change

Work For The Herero




Migrant Labor

Traditional Options Closed By Change

Ways Of ‘making A Living’ At /ai/ai

Chapter Iv Social Relationships And Access To Goods, Services And Resources

Consanguineous Kin 1

Affinal Xin

The Name Relationship

The Hxaro Relationship

The Rights Of Kin, Affinal, Name And Hxaro Relationships


Food Sharing

Distributing Non-food Items

Chapter V Placement Of Hxaro Ties And Extension Of Obligation Through Hxaro Chains

Placement Of Obligations Through Direct Hxaro Ties

Hxaro And The Life Cycle



Young Adults

Adults With Mature Children

Old Age

Hxaro Chains And The Extension Of Reciprocal Obligations

Hxaro Chains

Segments Of Hxaro Chains

Deviations Of Hxaro Chains

Return Of Gifts

Creating Ties In Other Bands

Chapter Vi Distribution Of Hxaro Partners

Predictions For The Distribution Of Hxaro Ties

Distribution Of Hxaro Partners By Ability

Distribution Of Hxaro Partners By Kinship

Distribution Of Hxaro Partners In Space

The Role Of Men And Women In Hxaro

Distribution Of Hxaro Partners By Age

Chapter Vii San Social Groups

Prediction Of Groups From Risk

The San View Of Social Groups

The Core

Camp A

Camp B

Camp C

Camp D

Camp E

Camp F

Camp H

Summary Of Changes In Camp Structure

Camps In An Area

The Dialect Group

Wealth Differences In San Society

Chapter Viii Risk Sharing In Other Hunter-gatherer Societies

The Effect Of Kinship On Reciprocity

Equality Of Wealth


The Change To Food Production

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Paragraph Subjects (OCM)

Publication Information


Title: Hxaro: a regional system of reciprocity for reducing risk among the !Kung San

Published By: Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1978 [1988 copy]. 3, 55, 404 leaves: ill.

By line: Pauline Wilson Wiessner

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: HRAF, 2005. Computer File

Culture: San (FX10)


Abstract: This source examines how the San form social ties to balance out daily, seasonal and yearly variation in subsistence resources and what effect these ties have on the structure, composition and flexibility of social groups. The author finds that relations of mutual reciprocity -- hxaro, or gift-giving, and sharing -- are a means of assuring each family a steady subsistence income. She finds that hxaro ties, in particular, are useful in minimizing subsistence risks because ties between hxaro partners form chains of obligation that assure each individual access to resources over a wide area. She also finds that in hxaro relationships the San are careful to select partners according to personality traits, abilities and areas of land rights, but usually with little regard to age or sex. According to the author, three major social groupings result from the ties of mutual reciprocity: core groups of close kin, groups of cooperating cores, or bands, and dialectical or breeding populations residing in particular areas. As one moves out from the core towards the dialectical group, the strength of group identity and stability decrease, however, the social ties at each level are integral to assuring a steady subsistence income. Although filedwork is centered on the ai ai community on the northern margins of the Kalahari desert, it does discuss HXARO trade partnerships which extend over a wide region.

Document Number: 20

Document ID: fx10-020

Document Type: Monograph

Language: English

Note: UM78-04841. Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1977.

Field Date: 1973-1975

Evaluation: Ethnologist-5

Analyst: Gerald Reid ; 1988

Coverage Date: 1975-1977

Coverage Place: /ai /ai and environs, northwest Botswana

LCSH: San (African people)


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