The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Rethinking Gift Theory: An Interdisciplinary Comparative Study of "Gift-giving", "Exchange", and "Sharing"

Joint Research Coordinator KISHIGAMI Nobuhiro

Reserch Theme List


gift-giving, exchange, sharing


The Gift by Marcel Mauss is an anthropological theory that explains the exchange of foodstuffs and other goods between individuals or groups. Lévi-Strauss developed the concept of reciprocity proposed by Mauss into a generalized theory of social exchange. The theory of the gift has been criticized by Weiner, and Godelier has proposed the concept of “things that cannot be given.” Prior to Mauss, Malinowski’s research on the Kula gave rise to a separate stream of thinking about exchange. Anthropologists who studied hunter-gathers experimented with distinguishing sharing and redistribution from exchange. Models related to this thinking include the Sahlins model and the Testart model. This project will be a multidisciplinary comparative study of ethnographic case studies of gift-giving and exchange in the Americas and Oceania, Asia and Africa whose purpose will be to examine the content and validity of concepts of gift-giving, exchange and redistribution in a global context. In addition, we would also like to examine changes in gift-giving, exchange and redistribution resulting from globalization and the spread of the market economy.