American Anthropologist

Auctioning Patronage in Northeast Brazil: The Political Value of Money in a Ritual Market

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  Fundraising auctions help people in a small rural town in Northeast Brazil reckon with the effects that currency stabilization and democratization have had on municipal politics. These simultaneous processes have made politics confusing for the people of Passerinho by creating multiple modalities of electoral reciprocity. In this article, I argue that the ritual procedures of the auctions commensurate these modalities of reciprocity through a semiotic procedure in which money signifies both exchange value and more personal forms of value. I consider the auction's impact on municipal politics by looking at its effect on the narrative of democratic progress and on the prestige of grassroots politicians, traditional elites, and voluntary associations.

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