chapter  2
20 Pages

Trade and Interaction in Archaeology

This chapter explores the forms of trade that sustain sociality within the modern penitentiary and also explores the turbulent social dynamics produced through the sub-rosa economic system. As cliques, families, or organized, racially-affiliated gangs struggle to control the acquisition and distribution of valued resources, penitentiary trade can be seen to resemble the inter-tribal competition that Sahlins (1972) used to characterize negative reciprocity. In classic archaeological models, issues of scale and distance are used to distinguish between trade and exchange. But such traditional multiscalar anthropological models are difficult to apply to penal institutions unique social worlds of incarceration and involuntary participation. In all nonmonetary societies, including the penitentiary, trade is undertaken to not only supply valued commodities but to mobilize social power, cultivate influence, and demonstrate status. The chapter also explores how the sexual economy of prison trade actively forges specific power relations and social identities within the austere institutional environment.