P48
Gifts and their circulation in a market-based economy

Convenors:
Gareth Hamilton (University of Latvia)
Māra Pinka (University of Latvia)
Location:
Ülikooli 16, 102
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Gifts, their circulation, and the performative element of giving and receiving, has received central attention from the beginnings of ethnographic enquiry. We investigate to what extent this still applies today with for examples based on multiple dimensions of human experience in today's world.

Long abstract:

Gifts, their circulation, and the perforative element of giving and receiving, has received central attention from the beginnings of ethnographic enquiry and this panel will investigate to what extent this still applies today. Gifting as a form of economic exchange has long been presented as belonging to pre-capitalist societies, whereas market economies see trading in commodities. While some argue that gifts and commodities are separate categories, others have described how these categories can be ambiguous. The rhetorical and perfomative side of gifting has recently received attention in the form of 'mass-gifts' (Bird-David & Darr), where the commodity-gift distinction has been blurred by corporate giving of 'free gifts' to encourage commercial spending by consumers. In the spirit of the Latourian argument that we have never been modern, this panel seeks contributions to current debates on the performance and rhetorics of gift exchange in a market economy. This panel attempts to find examples of the social side of gifting, and others from different situations. Questions to be debated might include: In which domains does gifting occur (public and/or private), and does the public aspect conceal/reveal private economic relations? Is giving today becoming more monetised, or are gifts as objects of material culture still significant? What objects are today seen as worth giving and receiving? Are any rituals of gifting from the past being recreated, performed or reconfigured in light of the current financial crisis? Are ethical concerns which now shape consumption appearing within the gifting realm?