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Gift-exchange as a means of 'handling diversity': Japanese-European interactions in the seventeenth century

Wim De Winter (UGent)
(2013) MEDIEVAL HISTORY JOURNAL. 16(2). p.565-583
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Abstract
Historical intercultural interactions between Europeans and Japanese during the seventeenth century were characterised by a diversity of perceptions and attitudes within a dynamic yet stable continuum of relationships, in which people reached a certain degree of understanding in a daily context. This relational stability was fundamentally created through evolving cycles of gift-behaviour, which occurred on distinct social levels. Surpassing mere tribute, this proved to be a constitutive element of daily social life. Research based on early seventeenth century European travellers’ accounts, letters and journals, compared with a famous case from the end of that century, emphasises that this behaviour changed in some ways and persisted in others. Originally developing in a considerably spontaneous and dynamic manner, this tendency became more institutionalised and ritualised in later times, when a fixed protocol for dealing with diversity was established. This phenomenon can be analysed through anthropological theory, and should be compared to different historical contexts in a diachronic sense, in order to fully understand both the theoretical implications and particularities of this context. This includes a methodologically critical perspective as well as a reflection on how historians handle diversity.
Keywords
rituals, Tokugawa, Cultures of Giving, gift-exchange, Japanese studies, 17th century Japan, cultural history, intercultural relations between Europeans and Japanese, Mughal India, comparative history, historical anthropology, gift

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
De Winter, Wim. 2013. “Gift-exchange as a Means of ‘Handling Diversity’: Japanese-European Interactions in the Seventeenth Century.” Ed. Thomas Ertl. Medieval History Journal 16 (2): 565–583.
APA
De Winter, Wim. (2013). Gift-exchange as a means of “handling diversity”: Japanese-European interactions in the seventeenth century. (T. Ertl, Ed.)MEDIEVAL HISTORY JOURNAL, 16(2), 565–583.
Vancouver
1.
De Winter W. Gift-exchange as a means of “handling diversity”: Japanese-European interactions in the seventeenth century. Ertl T, editor. MEDIEVAL HISTORY JOURNAL. 2013;16(2):565–83.
MLA
De Winter, Wim. “Gift-exchange as a Means of ‘Handling Diversity’: Japanese-European Interactions in the Seventeenth Century.” Ed. Thomas Ertl. MEDIEVAL HISTORY JOURNAL 16.2 (2013): 565–583. Print.
@article{4261658,
  abstract     = {Historical intercultural interactions between Europeans and Japanese during the seventeenth century were characterised by a diversity of perceptions and attitudes within a dynamic yet stable continuum of relationships, in which people reached a certain degree of understanding in a daily context. This relational stability was fundamentally created through evolving cycles of gift-behaviour, which occurred on distinct social levels. Surpassing mere tribute, this proved to be a constitutive element of daily social life. Research based on early seventeenth century European travellers{\textquoteright} accounts, letters and journals, compared with a famous case from the end of that century, emphasises that this behaviour changed in some ways and persisted in others. Originally developing in a considerably spontaneous and dynamic manner, this tendency became more institutionalised and ritualised in later times, when a fixed protocol for dealing with diversity was established. This phenomenon can be analysed through anthropological theory, and should be compared to different historical contexts in a diachronic sense, in order to fully understand both the theoretical implications and particularities of this context. This includes a methodologically critical perspective as well as a reflection on how historians handle diversity.},
  author       = {De Winter, Wim},
  editor       = {Ertl, Thomas},
  issn         = {0971-9458},
  journal      = {MEDIEVAL HISTORY JOURNAL},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {565--583},
  title        = {Gift-exchange as a means of 'handling diversity': Japanese-European interactions in the seventeenth century},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0971945813515023},
  volume       = {16},
  year         = {2013},
}

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