Number, Unit, and Utility in a Q'eqchi'-Maya Community


Rather than asking how two use-values can have the same exchange-value, this article asks how two distinct entities can have the same use-value. Among the Q'eqchi'-Maya, substitution (eeqaj) refers toactivities as disparate as house-building, civil-religious elections, vengeance, loans, illness cures, adultery, and namesakes. Such practices involve the exchange of one entity for another entity, insofar as these entities have shared properties, and insofar as they hold a role in a necessary position. Substitution is interpreted as social processes whereby substances get utilized, unitized, and numericalized, and this local articulation of use-value is theorized in terms of labour-power and personhood.


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