By Stephen Gudeman

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Org/core/terms. 001 TWO m The Strength of the House My initial and subsequent field studies in Panama and Colombia were serendipitous and fortunate happenings. They led me to study house economies and ways of making economy outside markets. When I began this fieldwork, I did not know what a house economy was, and I hardly had an image of modern market economies as presented in popular writings or formal texts. Only slowly did I become aware of systematic economies at the edges of markets where I was located.

Org/core/terms. 002 The Strength of the House economies on the margin participate in markets and lose their foundation and local connections, as I shall explain in subsequent chapters. Sometimes the current of vitality is used up in a festivity and not turned to work. In addition to everyday hospitality expressed through offering coffee, occasionally a house will host a celebratory ritual, such as a baptism or marriage. Food and drink are served, and a stringed instrument may be hired. The strength of the house is shared with others.

Housing conditions were simple, and the people worked hard. Given the large distance between the areas, as well as the divergent ecologies and dissimilar crops, I expected the local economies to be very different. To my surprise, whether in the margins of lowland Panama or the Andean heights of Colombia the economy – more exactly, the house economy with its current of vital energy – was almost identical throughout this vast area. Practices, words, and values were so similar that one could use the findings from one country in the other.

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