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Gift Economy

  • By: Genevieve Vaughan
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The gift economy has been much discussed in European-American academia as an economy of indigenous, pre-capitalist cultures, which do not have money or markets as such, but function on the basis of a triple obligation of giving, receiving, and reciprocating. With a few partial exceptions, these discussions do not distinguish between gift giving and exchange, nor do they accord any particular place to mothering.

Recently, however, women scholars have begun to recognize the mothering aspect of gift economies and the economic aspect of mothering. In contrast to exchange, maternal gift giving can be seen as the unilateral satisfaction of needs, made necessary by the biology of dependent children, who are unable to give back an equivalent of what has been given to them. From this perspective, ...

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