What kinds of things are gifts and commodities? What does their exchange tell us about the relations between persons and things, between things and things, and between different persons party to an exchange? What gives a thing a sense of value? Are there such things that are useful but that are not up for exchange? What kinds of debts are generated when gifts and commodities are exchanged? Does the clearing of a debt signal the end of a relationship? Is reciprocity a good thing after all? If being creditable is a respectable characteristic, why are creditors typically such villainous characters? Is being indebted a show of strength or sign of weakness? What goes into making a price? What does it really mean for a thing to be priceless? If time is indeed money, is money also in some way a form or measure of time?
This course is an intensive introduction to the anthropology of exchange through the circulation of gifts and commodities across diverse times and places. We will read a set of classical and contemporary texts that explore the complex processes and relations of gift and commodity exchange and consider the rich and seemingly endless debates that they generate for the discipline and beyond.