- 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
Part I: The Phenomenology of Gift-Giving
It is just before midnight and the party is moving to a climax. New guests are still arriving – friends and friends of friends. Everyone is greeted by beaming faces, smart get-ups, and a hostess who is celebrating her thirty-third birthday. A somewhat smaller space has been cleared for presents to be left and eventually handed over around midnight. The table-load has taken on imposing proportions. Most of the gifts have been elaborately and tastefully concealed in coloured paper trailing shiny ribbons and little hearts or stars, witticisms and ironic allusions. People are eating, drinking, dancing and waiting. Finally the time comes. Stevie Wonder's ‘Happy Birthday’ makes quite unmistakable what is about to happen. The hostess opens the ...