Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

The claim to preserve by a putative possessor is made visible by a sign of some kind, 
which, following ethological practice, may be called a “marker”...Markers are of various 
kinds. There are “central markers”, being objects that announce a territorial claim, the 
territory radiating outward from it, as when sunglasses and lotion claim a beach chair, or a 
purse a seat in an airliner...There are “boundary markers”, objects that mark the line 
between two adjacent territories. The bar used in supermarket checkout counters to 
separate one customer's batch of articles from the next is an example...There are (if | may 
use the phrase) “ear markers”, that is, signatures embedded in an object to claim it as part 
of the possessionai territory of the signee, as when names are burned into sports 
equipment, livestock, and slaves....an object that is a part of a territory can also function as 
a marker of territory....personal effects, constituting a preserve in their own right, are 
frequently employed as markers; moving them or even touching them is something like 
touching their owner’s body, and such acts are avoided in many circumstances or 
performed with suitable circumspection. (Goffman, 1971, pp. 41-42) 
Within archeology, Tringham (1972) has described markers in prehistoric communities, 
and Renfrew (1983) has argued that the European megalithic monuments were territorial 
markers that coincided with the rise of social systems of political control. Within anthropology, 
Boas (1899), Ritschen (1954), Gusinde (1961) and Lévi-Strauss and Belmont (1963) have all 
reported on territory markers. Becker and Coniglio (1973), Ley and Cybriwsky (1974) and Vinsel, 
Brown, Altman and Foss (1980) have reported on personalization of territory as an indicator of 
successful assertion of self-identity and control of social spaces and resources. Becker (1973) 
demonstrated that personal objects can mark possession of a table in a library, and Schaffer 
and Sadowski (1975) demonstrated that they can mark possession of a table in a bar. Becker 
{1973) recommended that this be called jurisdiction rather than ownership of public areas. 
Property & Cross-Cultural Research : 
Historically, the motivation for cross-cultural research on property had two sources. First, 
in the natural science tradition of Aristotle and Montesquieu, property needed to be surveyed 
in all of its manifestations in order to reveal the common underlying principles. Second, in the 
natural law tradition of Cicero, Aquinas, and Locke, property needed to be examined in its 
natural state, prior to civilization in order to disentangle it from legal and cultural conventions. 
In a third tradition, an amalgamation and extension of the earlier two, originating perhaps with 
Rousseau and gaining predominance with Marx, the institution of private property needed to be 
studied in terms of its historical trajectory and cuitural evolution in order to understand its 
social functions. 
Ethnographic information on property eventually came to dominate nineteenth century 
debates on property theories. Ensor (1844) claims to have been the first to systematically 
examine the ethnographic accounts of property among primitive peoples. However, Morgan's

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