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Takers Keepers, Losers Weepers: Theft as Customary Play in the Southern Philippines

Timothy Austin
Journal of Folklore Research
Vol. 49, No. 3 (September/December 2012), pp. 347-369
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/jfolkrese.49.3.347
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Page Count: 26
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Abstract This article presents ethnographic findings from the north-west coastal region of Mindanao, the largest island in the Southern Philippines. I argue that street-level theft (pickpocketing, land squatting, and kidnapping) can be seen as emerging, at least in part, from customary norms based in what Alan Dundes might term folk ideas. Time-honored behavior patterns conveyed by word of mouth include getting something for nothing (pa-bukongay), being street smart (pa-abtikay), and being first (pa-unahay). These locally resonant ideas influence the kinds of behaviors that are tolerated in children and adults, and they should be considered as important independent variables when attempting to understand definitions of and motivations for theft in this region.

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