This panel explores the theory, types, and functions of gift exchange in South Asia as a form of intimate practice, focusing on its cooperative and transformational (if not revolutionary) potential.
From wife-givers to wife-takers, pupils to teachers, landowners to labourers, devotees to gods, goddesses and saints, and vice versa — gift exchange is omnipresent in South Asia. This panel explores the theory, types, and functions of gift exchange in South Asia as a form of intimate practice, focusing on its cooperative and transformational (if not revolutionary) potential. Using both social scientific and humanities-based methodologies, presenters on this panel investigate the ways in which individual and social, political and economic interests come together and form networks of collaboration. For centuries, gift exchange has been a fundamental component of South Asian cultures, and in many different spheres of contemporary South Asia it remains an important facet of social life. New types of gift giving are constantly emerging, and with them new forms of cooperation and intimacy shape the contours of contemporary life in South Asia. Examples of gift exchange in religious, economic, medical, social, and familial contexts in South Asia are explored on this panel to examine different types and meanings of "the gift" and theoretical issues connected with it: How can we define the difference between gifts and commodities, and to what extent are gift exchange and market exchange entangled? Can we speak of a common theory of gift exchange in South Asia that may be deployed usefully across different regions and cultural contexts? How can we describe the networks initiated and strengthened by gift exchange and the intimate, though often hierarchical, relationships between those involved in gift economies?