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Roman Law before the Twelve TablesAn Interdisciplinary Approach$
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Sinclair W. Bell and Paul J. du Plessis

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474443968

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474443968.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Finding Melanesia in Ancient Rome: Mauss’ Anthropology of nexum

Finding Melanesia in Ancient Rome: Mauss’ Anthropology of nexum

(p.171) Chapter 10 Finding Melanesia in Ancient Rome: Mauss’ Anthropology of nexum
Roman Law before the Twelve Tables

Alain Pottage

Edinburgh University Press

Marcel Mauss’ The Gift is an original and unique anthropology of law. Law is the object and medium of the analysis, and the conceptual and political strategies of the text are closely adapted to the symptomatic tensions that Mauss elicits from law. And for Mauss these tensions were concentrated in one particular legal institution – the archaic Roman institution of nexum. As I argue in this chapter, the technicalities of the legal institution of nexum – however they are now recollected – should be seen as largely subordinate to the social-structural and economic forces that shaped ancient Roman society. And this approach might in turn lead to a set of questions that Mauss would have found entirely pertinent, as to what nexum might tell us about the genealogy or deep infrastructure of debt and precarity in contemporary societies.

Keywords:   Marcel Mauss, The Gift, nexum, anthropology, operae

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