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Why has gift exchange been an important topic for anthropology - Essay Example

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For a long time, the subject of gift exchange in anthropology has been an area of interest for anthropologists while it has also influenced the imagination of others. In essence, the act of giving gifts is a universal behaviour in which the interpretation of this has not been as satisfying as argued by scientists and those interested in anthropology…
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Why has gift exchange been an important topic for anthropology
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"Why has gift exchange been an important topic for anthropology"

Download file to see previous pages Researchers have established that giving is a composite subject in relation to describing human interactions and the ways that people become social within a society. In some quarters, many argue that gift exchange is an act of reciprocation and it can be a way of integrating people and culture in a society. Others also view gift giving as a way of influencing social communication especially for people that do not speak the same language or share the same cultural practices (Evens 2013, p. 123). The implication of this that gifts can be a representation of expression making them to convey cultural meanings that the other party may understand as the expressions of intended plans. Essentially, the act of giving or exchanging gifts becomes a tool for influencing social responsibilities and ways of providing political contrive. With this, this essay will explain the reasons as to why gift exchange is a relevant topic in anthropology by presenting the arguments, counter-arguments and the evidence to support both of these claims. 2. Arguments One of the key contributors to the argument that gifts formed part of the anthropology researches was Mauss Marcel who was a French sociologist in the nineteenth century. For one, Mauss argued that the issuance of gifts was never free, but rather they opened up avenues for reciprocal exchanges for those that received the gifts in the first place. In essence, the process of anthropology requires that a researcher dwells among the people that are the subject of the study in order for them to acquire first hand information concerning their way of living. Ideally, this was the most appropriate way of gathering data within the anthropology study as the information gathered was accurate and factual as compared making researches based on secondary data. However, the process of engaging the natives involved in the study was a tricky affair because of the difference in culture and language attributes (Ensminger 2002, p. 106). Therefore, anthropologists had to be creative hence making them to devise ways of how the natives would come to trust them in order for their study being a success. Mauss shared a contrary view in his argument that the gifts given to the natives were not free and that the recipient had to find a way of reciprocating for it. Subsequently, Mauss could not understand the content of the gifts that made them to have the reciprocating nature, but concluded that the gesture of receiving or giving somehow had spiritual attributes. Mauss concluded that the act of giving fostered social bonds between people from different cultures hence making the receiver to develop the obligation to reciprocate for the kind gesture shown by the giver (Ben-Amos 2008, p. 5). On the other hand, the giver also had to part with something that was somehow of value to him, which meant that the giver had shared a part of him influencing the bond to be a social one. As part of his theoretical views on the subject of giving and receiving gifts, Mauss three basic principles of his ideology that were giving, receiving, and reciprocating as part of developing social relationships. When a person gave, they portrayed their interest in developing and maintaining healthy relationships while the receiver could not refuse the gift. Failure to accept the gift was illustrating that the person was not interested in forming any formidable ties with the giver, but if they accepted the gift they had the moral obligation of reciprocating as part of showing liberation (Peoples & Bailey 2012, p. 147). However, the postmodern aspects of examining anthropology illustrate the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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