• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

We all give and receive gifts. But few of us reflect on the risks and uncertainties inherent to this form. For example, to give means to acquire power, to effect a symbolic exchange, to initiate ties and alliances, to convey social messages to others and to classify our own status. Gift-giving is also a device to register honour and shame, to show solidarity, to equalize and to create intimacy. This fascinating volume looks at the ambivalence of gift-giving; contemporary gift-giving, its motives, occasions and its rules; examines `sacrifice', `food-sharing' and `gift-giving' as those basic institutions upon which symbolic orders of `traditional' society rely; and considers the historical invention of hospitality, paving the

Attributions
Attributions

Name: one of the most venerable words living among us

Kluge

Proper names are, of all names and commonplaces, the ones that resist the dissolution of meaning.

Lévinas

The language of distribution takes shape out of the experiences and conflicting emotions of satisfaction, repletion and fulfilment, shortage and privation, so that a vocabulary of ‘higher’ feelings appears whose promises are still with us today: love passes through the stomach, and it is also still permitted to love someone so much that you could ‘eat them alive’. The corresponding world-views and systems of interpretation are present in the abstract realms of law and destiny, moral and political economy. The unknown is related to the known, the unnamed to the named. For name-giving puts an end to unfamiliarity, and the ...

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