Begging as Reciprocity in Jamaican Urban Low-Income Communities

In the anthropological literature on Jamaica, one can find scattered references to thj2e incidence of begging in urban low-income communities. However, few of these studies have sought to apprehend if begging among the urban poor in Jamaica has a specific logic of its own. I suggest that begging in Jamaican urban low-income communities should not be confused with more conventional forms of begging, but is in fact a distinct type of coping strategy of the poor. Begging in Jamaican urban low-income communities is more likely to be framed as a demand for sharing than a plea for assistance, and it can either enjoin reciprocity or lead to the creation of asymmetrical relations. Parallels are drawn with the custom of demand-sharing among indigenous Australians, and the article also investigates what sociological conditions are like in Jamaica’s urban lowincome communities, in order to demonstrate how these conditions have helped engender the phenomenon.

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