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Anthropology of Gifts and Giving: Selfless or Selfish? (FYS)
Spring 2024
Section: 01  

What is a gift? A commonplace understanding is that a gift is something given gratuitously, selflessly, and without the expectation of a return (just look the word up in any dictionary). Why, then, upon receiving a gift, do we feel indebted to the giver? And rather than free and gratuitous, isn't most gift giving compelled by socially significant events and regulated by relatively rigid rules? This FYS is an in-depth examination of gift giving as one of the most powerful forces binding individuals and groups in society into relationships of reciprocity. Students become familiar with critical anthropological and philosophical debates about the gift and consider their application to contemporary forms of giving, including traditional gift-giving events, sacrifice, philanthropy, volunteering and voluntourism, international aid, and types of giving made possible by advances in technology, such as organ donation and surrogacy. We attend to the economic, political, ethical, cultural, gender, and personal dimensions of gift giving in their remarkable power to make and break social bonds and undo or reinforce hierarchical relations at all levels of local and global society. Students draw a deeper understanding of the connection between generosity and power to inform their own ethics of gift giving, sharing of wealth, and sense of responsibility, wellbeing, and place in the world.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS ANTH
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ANTH)
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on MAY-27-2024
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