• 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


The giver teaches giving

In our introductory story all the main themes of a current everyday practice of giving can be readily discerned. Giving is all too familiar an occurrence. Everyone knows it and seems more or less fully in charge as they give and are given to. Of course, everyone also remembers the risks and the imponderables that go hand in hand with this form of interaction.

The form itself is as old as the hills. At least since Marcel Mauss's pioneering essay on ‘the gift’ (1990 [1925]), it has been known that the exchange of gifts is a primal phenomenon of sociality. Archaic societies reproduce themselves in the specific form of mutual gift-making. It is no accident, then, that the contemporary form recalls ceremonies ...

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