Modul 06-004-2ABCD-3 Kulturvergleich/ Ästhetik und Gesellschaft Masterstudium 

Gift and Sacrifice 

Mees van Hulzen

Seminar dienstags, wöchentlich, 15:15 – 16:45 SG S 4-25 Beginn 16.10.2018 

Prüfungsleistung, Projektarbeit 


Can a gift be given without expecting something in return? Is there such a thing as a pure gift? Or is a gift always given in anticipation of a counter gift? And if this is the case, then how is gift giving different from ordinary barter? How do practices of gift giving relate to market transactions in general? Are there things that are priceless, which value cannot be expressed in the crude calculations of the monetary system, and can only be given? 
These are some of the central questions that will be studied and discussed during this seminar. Next to canonical texts such as The Gift by Marcel Mauss, Given Time by Jacques Derrida and The Accursed Share by Georges Bataille, we will look at more recent texts on gift giving in philosophy, anthropology, theology and sociology. This will allow us not just to focus on the classical philosophical questions of the gift given above, but also on how theories of the gift offer a framework to interpret various topics within the social sciences such as philanthropy, faith, solidarity, empathy, ecology etc. Of special interest will be the relation between the gift and sacrifice. Practices of sacrifice can be understood as a subcategory of the gift, or even as fundamental to gift giving. The world of sacrifice offers a darker and more uncertain side of the gift characterized by renunciation, death and destruction, but also by beginning and renewal. One of the primary texts we will be looking at in our reflections on the relation between gift and sacrifice is the book Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard – which by some is considered to be the most dangerous book in western philosophy. 
The overall aim of the course is to give an overview of the most prominent theories of the gift, and to reflect on the relation between gift and sacrifice from an interdisciplinary perspective. 

The seminar will be given in English. Papers can be written in English or in German. 

Literature A full literature list and reader will be made available at the beginning of the semester. 

Semester: WiSe 2018/19