The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Becoming groups: The anthropological study of multiple redistribution

Joint Research Coordinator HAMADA Akinori

Reserch Theme List


group, redistribution, solidarity


This joint research project illuminates the diversity of relationships between group and redistribution, with a special focus on how redistribution contributes to group formation. In Polanyi, redistribution is formally defined as a particular type of economic activity: a systematic movement of goods towards an administrative center and their redistribution by the authorities at the center. Rituals, celebrations, taxes, and household economies are all described using the same formula. Society’s existence is assumed and stress is placed on the role of redistribution as a mechanism of social control. In contrast, our joint research project does not assume that society’s existence is a self-evident reality. Instead, it examines the role of redistribution in group formation. As illustrated by the case of intellectual historian Francoise Ewald’s account of social insurance in France, participation in redistribution can foster a feeling of solidarity. Another important question is how participation in redistribution defines the boundaries of the group. From this perspective, we compare case studies from around the world to investigate how specific processes of redistribution are related to the distinctive features of groups.