Presence of the Gift

Main Article Content

Ann Game
Andrew Metcalfe


Philosophers, social theorists and cultural theorists have generally followed Mauss in assuming that gifts entail obligatory exchanges between distinct parties who give, receive and reciprocate, and, that the social emerges through this sequence of obligations. It is the obligation to reciprocate, for example, that led Derrida to claim that the gift is impossible. We consider the alternative ideas that non-exchange gifts are not only possible but the basis of social life: that the social arises from the nonsequential giving-and-receiving of a gift relation. To develop this claim, we draw on a research project on the phenomenology of teaching. While many interviewees, teachers and students, spoke of the gift in exchange terms, many also spoke of classroom experiences in which there is a giving and receiving that is neither sequential nor locatable. Through the resonances of the concept of presence, we draw out the time, space and ontology of the gift.

Article Details

Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Ann Game, University of New South Wales

Ann Game and Andrew Metcalfe are associate professors who teach and write together in the School of Sociology and Anthropology, University of New South Wales, Sydney. They have written four books collaboratively: Passionate Sociology; The Mystery of Everyday Life; The First Year Experience; and Teachers Who Change Lives. Additionally, Ann is co-author of Gender at Work and author of Undoing the Social, and Andrew is author of For Freedom and Dignity.