About gifts this holiday and beyond.

Do with these reflections why you wish. Though derived from academic literature, it resonates with our current social (and maybe religious) constructs in many ways, especially during this holiday period.

Why do we exchange gifts? It is not so much the redistribution of resources or exchange of goods but to create and maintain relationships. The exchange does not have a predefined currency, for example, access to events and people’s time is a form of gift.

Mostly unintended but a gift is never neutral, the giver gains power over the receiver through the gift, and the receiver allows himself or herself to enter this relationship of debt by accepting the gift.

By giving and receiving gifts, unequal power relations are established. Quoting Jesus, Paul says “It’s more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35) another passage I can’t find describes the giver as more powerful. Whether given out of free will or obligation; generosity or self-interest, somehow, the gift urges the receiver to reciprocate.

With gifts, social bonds are created between the two.

I don’t have anything particular to insinuate here, just some contrasting reflections based on Anna Kirkebæk Johansson Gosovic’s brilliant paper, Gifts, reciprocity and ethically sound ethnographic research: a reflexive framework.

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