Women and the Gift Economy: A Radically Different World View is Possible


Edited by Genevieve Vaughan

Print: 13-978-0-07367609-7-4 – $39.95
Accessible ePUB: 978-1-92670-846-1 – $12.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-111-1 – $12.99

388 Pages

May 01, 2007

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Abundance is necessary for the successful practice of gift giving. Exchange competes with gift giving by capturing the abundance, channeling it into the hands of the few or wasting it, thus creating scarcity for the many.
—Genevieve Vaughan

Women and the Gift Economy: A Radically Different Worldview is Possible is an attempt to respond to the need for deep and lasting social change in an epoch of dangerous crisis for all humans, cultures, and the planet. Featuring articles by well-known feminist activists and academics, this book points to ways to re-create the connections, which have been severed, between the gift economy, women, and the economies of Indigenous peoples, and to bring forward the gift paradigm as an approach to liberate us from the worldview of the market that is destroying life on the planet. Shifting to a gift paradigm can give us the radically different worldview which will make another, better, world possible.

A gift economy embodies an oriented logic of care while exchange, upon which the market is based, contains a logic of self interest because it requires an equivalent return for what is given, satisfying the need of the ‘giver’ as opposed to those of the ‘receiver.’ Indigenous societies often continue to practice gift giving although they have now been forced into the context of the market. Many other examples of gift giving from mothering to communication and social activism abound in our society although they are unrecognized. Even free housework can be considered an unrecognized gift women are giving to their families and to the capitalist system. Through the commodification of free gift areas—such as water, traditionally grown seeds, medicinal plants—globalization captures the gifts of the many in the Global South, channeling them to the few in the North. Contributors to this volume argue that shifting to a gift paradigm can give us the radically different worldview which will make another world possible.

“Finally! This is the book we urgently need in these neoliberal, destructive, disoriented times. We all know that a profound change in our economy and culture is necessary, that we need to think in another way. But how? The authors of this collection of articles—all feminists, all peace workers, from the North and the South—demonstrate convincingly that “a radically different world view is possible” when we look at the world with Genevieve Vaughan’s radically different paradigm: gift giving instead of the coercive and compulsive exchange paradigm of the market economy.
—Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, co-author of The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy and Women: The Last Colony

“Wow, what a great book. If more people could embrace this kind of thinking the world would be a much better place. In the tradition of my people one’s status in society in not based upon how much wealth one possesses and displays but rather it is based upon what one gives away. Thus according to our traditions the creators of this volume deserve special recognition as their work is a gift for the rest of us who have the privilege of reading it.”
—D. Memee Lavell-Harvard, President, Ontario Native Women’s Association and Vice President, Native Women’s Association of Canada

“Those of us honoured to know Genevieve Vaughan know that, for at least twenty years, she has been working tirelessly towards defining and describing the “gift economy, presenting it as a workable alternative to patriarchal capitalism. This anthology, Women and the Gift Economy, offers the fruit of myriad scholars on the subject, examining the gift economy from nearly every imaginable vantage point—from history, spirituality, sexuality, and matriarchal social structure to language, finance, childcare, and warfare. Moreover, Indigenous scholars working from their own cultures’ ways of knowing receive a representation and a respect equal to what is afforded their European and Euroamerican colleagues. Women and the Gift Economy is guaranteed to guide the reader into new and invigorating paradigms, clarifying the economic choices facing humanity.
—Barbara Alice Mann, author of Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas and editor of and contributor to Daughters of Mother Earth

“Genevieve Vaughan has for decades been active in progressive causes—generous with her time, energy, and material resources. Now she gives the best gift of all: her elegant, intelligent, and transformative thinking. This is, simply, a visionary book. Read it, let it into your heart and brain—and you will change the world.
—Robin Morgan

“The gift economy is prevalent in most ancient Indigenous societies the world over, many still existing today. Gifting operates especially well among people with fewer resources, in rural areas and urban townships. It is through sharing gifts that many of us survive. Genevieve Vaughan’s feminist gift economy is a reminder to all of us about this ancient practice still prevalent in many of our societies, especially in Africa and the global South more broadly, and her life’s work in this area perfectly epitomizes the philosophies underpinning the book: it is the gift economy in practice. Genevieve Vaughan is a gift to the world.
—Bernedette Muthien, poet and activist, director of ENGENDER, South Africa

“This collection, in its critique of patriarchal capitalism and in its call for a logic of gift-giving over exchange, makes possible a new understanding of—and appreciation for—the true economic and social value of mothering. In this, the book is an invaluable contribution to motherhood studies.
—Andrea O’Reilly, Associate Professor, York University, and author of Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart

“Based on Genevieve Vaughan’s theory of the gift economy, this book offers a radically different world view for 21st century feminism with powerful implications for challenging patriarchy and the market economy in building a sustainable, safe, equitable world society. In the introduction Vaughan outlines the logic and impact of the gift economy. Vaughan’s approach provides an alternative paradigm in which “mothering” in all the senses of the term is at the foundation of the social model for being human. Together with the articles that follow her introduction, the book provides a unified feminist philosophy in which the logic of social interaction is based on “gifting” that is, giving to nurture growth by satisfying needs in response to which the receiver models the giver by giving to others. This is a must read for feminists in all countries for it provides a coherent philosophical system based on the power of nurturing for rethinking political and economic thought just as the Enlightenment once based its philosophical innovations on the power of human reason.
—Peggy Reeves Sanday, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania and author of Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy

“Anyone who wonders why a tree giving us oxygen is only profitable when it’s cut down, or why a train wreck increases the Gross Domestic Product but nurturing children does not, is on the way to rejecting patriarchal capitalism. Genevieve Vaughan and her collection of essays by activists and visionaries show us an alternate economic worldview that existed for most of human history, and could exist again. This brave and path-breaking book will give you hope—and hope is a form of planning.”
—Gloria Steinem



Rabia Abdelkarim-Chikh is an Algerian, living and working in Senegal as a researcher in social sciences for the international NGO, Environment Development Actions Third World. She is a feminist activist involved with the African Women Forum for Economy in Solidarity (FAMES) and has facilitated a number of different workshops and panels at World Social Forums.

Yvette Abrahams was born in 1963, in Crawford, Cape Town, South Africa. She grew up mostly in exile, in Scandinavia. She is a historian and spends most of her working hours researching gender in different forms. She dreams of laying a pathway that will lead young Black women securely towards freedom in the new millennium. From January to December 2002, she was a visiting scholar at the African Gender Institute. Her articles have published in a number of edited anthologies, including Black Women in White Institutional Cultures (Indiana University Press, 2003) and Discourses on Difference, Discourse on Oppression (Centre for Advanced South African Studies, 2001).

Andrea Alvarado Vargas is a Costarican journalist, radio producer and audio technician. She has worked as a trainer in radio production, digital edition, and new technologies courses for some years for different social communication organizations. She is an advocate for non-profit communication and communication rights and a feminist activist. She has a strong relationship with community radios in Central America, and is part of strengthening projects for these radios. She works as a producer for Radio Internacional Feminista/FIRE.

Born in the Caribbean, Peggy Antrobus has worked for the advancement of women’s rights and development, starting with her post as Advisor on Women’s Affairs to the government of Jamaica on the eve of the UN Decade for Women (1974). She is a founding member of many feminist organizations including the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), DAWN, and the International Gender and Trade Network. She was General Coordinator of DAWN from 1991-1996, and currently serves on the Steering Committee of DAWN Caribbean. Her book, The Global Women’s Movement: Issues, Strategies and Challenges, was published by Zed Books in 2004.

Jeannette Armstrong is Syilx (Okanagan) from Penticton, British Columbia, Canada and is the Director of En’owkin Centre dedicated to the revitaliztion of the Syilx Language and Culture.

Assetou Madeleine Auditore (or simply Madou) was born in Yaou, Ivory Coast on 14 December 1993 from parents who had migrated there from Burkina Faso. She now lives and studies in Bari, Italy, where she is currently doing her first year middle school. She takes piano, sax and singing lessons at the Conservatorium Niccolò Piccinni in Bari. She enjoys playing sports, dancing, and good food!

Louise Benally is a 46-year-old Dineh mother and grandmother. She is a human rights activist, an environmental activitist, a traditional educator/counsellor, and an herbalist. Currently, she is working for the Northern Arizona University on health promotion, diabetes prevention, and healing gardens. This is one way she teaches about a “healthy living world” for all the living beings.

Marta Benavides is an educator, a theologian, and permaculturist who works on social transformation through culture, culture of peace, life-long learning. She is the International President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and part of the United Nations and UNESCO Women, Sustainability, and Peace Caucuses. She worked for a political, peaceful, negotiated solution to the war in El Salvador in the 1980s. During the war, she also worked with Monsignor Oscar Romero, who was slain in 1980 in El Salvador, and together they established the first refugee centers in the country, and directed the Ecumenical Committee for Humanitarian Aid (CEAH ). Marta’s father rested on Earth Day, April 22, 2005, and her mother on April 19th, 2006. In their memory, on September 23, 2006, she and her sisters opened the Culture is Peace and the AHA Folk Arts and Cultures Museum in Santa Ana, the second city of El Salvador, for the purpose of promoting a culture of peace through social transformation and global and planetary citizenship.

Carol Brouillet is a longtime activist. She has organized three gatherings on “Strategies to Transform the Global Economy,” with an emphasis on money. She also organized (the first) marches on her Senators and Congresswoman in January 2002 to “demand a congressional investigation of 9/11.” She has published Deception Dollars (over 6,000,000 in print), and co-founded the 9/11 Truth Alliance, and the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance. She also produced the musical comedy/benefit and film, Behind Every Terrorist There is a Bush and organized the San Franciso International Inquiry into 9/11. She is the mother of three boys, and ran for Congress in 2006 on the Green Party ticket on a 9/11 Truth, Peace and Impeachment platform. www.communitycurrency.org.

Linda Christiansen-Ruffman (Ph.D. Columbia University) is Professor of Sociology at Saint Mary’s University. She served as a President of both the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association and the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women as well as their Atlantic counterparts. She has chaired the Research Committee on Women in Society of the International Sociological Association (ISA) and been a member of the ISA executive committee and its representative to the United Nations in New York. In the 1970s she began to conduct local research and to teach, write, and organize some of the “early” research by, for, about, and with women. She chaired the Taskforce on the Elimination of Sexist Bias in Research of the Social Science Federation of Canada. She became part of the feminist challenge to unlearn biased theoretical and methodological assumptions of disciplines and to invent new ways. Her scholarship on feminist theory, methodology, sociology of knowledge and women’s movements (local and global) has benefited greatly from feminist praxis. She has helped to found many organizations, committees and caucuses including graduate women’s studies in Halifax, Nova Scotia Women’s FishNet, FAFIA (Canada’s Feminist Alliance for International Action) and the International Feminist University.

Brackin “Firecracker” Camp grew up in a small town in Mississippi and came of age in New Orelans, Louisiana. She has an extensive background in protesting, networking, traveling, interviewing, researching, radical cheerleading, circus performing, parading, bike riding, and organizing events/conferences throughout the U.S. and in various other countries. To support herself in the market economy, Brackin presently works as a personal care attendant/body worker as well as a puppeteer in the Austin public schools. In addition, Brackin is a board member of the Rhizome Collective and a member of the committee to free the Angola 3.

Tracy Gary transforms communities as a donor activist, philanthropic and legacy advisor, and nonprofit entrepreneur. She has been on over 30 boards of directors and has help to start 19 nonprofits and foundations including Resourceful Women and Changemakers. Her latest adventure is Inspired Legacies, which helps to catalyze billions of dollars of the public good through linking of powerful dreamers, dreammakers, and advisors. Tracy is the co-author of Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step by Step Guide to Creating a Giving and Legacy Plan (Jossey Bass, 2007) with new worksheets for those planning their lifetime legacies. She credits the leadership of the women’s movement and mentors like Gen Vaughan for their inspiration of her feminist philanthropy and commitment to the women’s funding movement.

Heide Goettner-Abendroth was born in 1941 and is the mother of three children. She has published various books on matriarchal society and culture and has become the founding mother of Modern Matriarchal Studies. In 1980 she was visiting professor at the University of Montreal (Canada) and, in 1992, at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). In 1986, she founded the International Academy HAGIA: Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality in Germany. The results of her research have been the basis for further studies and projects in many different countries. She is one of the 1,000 “Peace Women” all over the world who have been nominated by the Swiss Peace Initiative. Visit her website: www.goettner-abendroth.de.

Mechthild U. Hart is Professor at DePaul University’s School for New Learning. She moved from Germany to the United States in 1972, worked in a number of women’s and community organizations, and has been teaching and mentoring at the School for New Learning since 1987. She has published several articles, book chapters, and two books on international and social divisions of labour, with special emphasis on poverty and motherwork.

Ana Isla’s current research specialty and interests are feminism, eco-feminism, women in development, Third World women, women’s micro-enterprises, political economy, political ecology, the Commons, enclosure in the twenty-first century, debt crisis, globalization and global issues, social justice, racism, economic development, sustainable development, debt-for-nature swaps, poverty issues, community organizing, the gift economy, bio-piracy, Indigenous knowledge, eco-tourism, mining and environmental NGOs. She is assistant professor at Brock University and a member of Toronto Women for a Just and Healthy Planet.

Maria Jimenez lives in Houston, Texas and has worked with the Latino community in the non-profit sector over the past 20 years. She has developed human rights monitoring and documentation methodology and trained community groups in human rights monitoring and documentation. She has also written numerous articles on international migration issues. She has received many awards for her work including the Humanitarian Award from the Mickey Leland Centre, Texas Southern University in 2004, and the Community Leadership Award from the Houston Peace and Justice Centre in 2005.

Kaarina Kailo, senior researcher at the Finnish Academy, has held various women’s studies positions in Canada and Finland (1991- ), ranging from interim director of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Montreal, Canada to professor at Oulu University. She has published numerous co-edited books on topics from postcolonialism (Sami people) to feminist views on folklore, storytelling, literature, gift economy/gift imaginary, neoliberal economic philosophy, honour-related gender violence, mythology, ecofeminism, bear myths, sauna and sweatlodge as gynocentric ritual spaces. Her current research compares Northern/Indigenous women’s writings on trauma and healing. She is active in local, national and international Green-Left politics. Her edited anthology, The Gift Gaze: Wo(men) and Bears was published by Inanna Publications in 2007.

Corinne Kumar is a poet, a dreamer leader, a visionary … a pilgrim of life as she calls herself. With an abiding faith in women’s knowledge and all vulnerable wisdoms, she is a woman deeply committed to issues related to women and human rights, peace and justice. She has initiated and sustained groups at the local, regional, and international level, whose core is transformational politics that is rooted in a more caring and compassionate society in immediate, lived realities. These include the Centre for Development Studies (CIEDS), Vimochana, a forum for women’s rights, both based in Bangalore, India and the Asian Women Human Rights Council, a regional network of women’s and human rights organizations. For the past decade, she has been the Director of El Taller, an international ngo based in Tunis that through its perspectives and programs, including training programs for ngo activists, attempts to create spaces for constructive reflection and action on the important issues of our times and enables a South-South and North-South dialogue. Information on the World Courts of Women is available at: www.eltaller.org.

Rauna Kuokkanen is Associate Professor of Pedagogy and Indigenous Studies at the Sami University College, Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino (Norway). She holds a Ph.D. on Education from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) and an MA on Comparative Literature (University of British Columbia) and on Sami Language and Literature (University of Oulu, Finland). She has published articles on Indigenous research paradigms, education and critical theory, Indigenous literature, the gift paradigm, and globalization and Indigenous women. Her current research examines the intersections of autonomy, violence, and political economy in the context of Indigenous women. She was the founding chair of the Sami Youth Organization in Finland, established in 1991, and has served as the Vice-President of the Sami Council. Currently she is a member of the Board of Directors of Terralingua, International Organization for Protection of Biocultural Diversity, and a member of the Call of the Earth Circle, Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative on Intellectual Property Policy.

For more than 25 years, Paola Melchiori has created, nationally and internationally, free spaces of critical thinking, teaching and learning, based on the model of the Free University in Berlin. She is the founder and president of The International Feminist University Network, an international think-tank for women’s critical thinking and education. The university is committed to developing and making visible new paradigms of knowledge based on women’s ways of knowing and learning and to make them available and meaningful for new generations of women leaders. She has written extensively on feminist theory, knowledge creation, and on interdisciplinary and relational learning and education. She is currently focusing on how to “pass on” experiences, memory, history, to young women and men, through written and visual texts.

Angela Miles is Professor of Adult Education and Community Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She is committed to building and studying autonomous women’s local and global activism and its genesis and significance in the current period of neo-liberal globalization. She is a founding member of Toronto Women for a Just and Healthy Planet, the Feminist Party of Canada, the Antigonish Women’s Association and is a member of the editorial board of Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme. Her publications include, Integrative Feminisms: Building Global Visions (Routledge 1996) and the co-edited collection Feminist Politics, Activism and Vision: Local and Global Challenges (Inanna/Zed 2004).

Sizani Ngubane is the founder and director of the Rural Women’s Movement in KwaZulu Natal-South Africa. She worked for ten years as a gender specialist for the Association for Rural Advancement in KwaZulu Natal. Prior to that, she worked for the South African Women’s National Coalition as a provincial coordinator. Her skills and abilities were recognized when she was appointed the first organizer in the Northern Natal Region by the Africa National Congress (ANC), which has recently been legalized. She has been an activist for women’s rights for 40 years, and is particularly passionate about women’s independent rights to land, property and inheritance. She has two grandchildren and currently lives in Winterskloof. As a Zulu-speaking child, she grew up in the rural areas just outside Pietermaritzburg. She was unable to complete high school because of her family’s financial situation, but has made it a priority to educate herself.

Vicki Noble is a healer, artist, scholar, and writer, co-creator of Motherpeace, author of Shakti Women and the Double Goddess. She teaches in the Women’s Spirituality Program at New College of California in San Francisco.

Patricia Pearlman was the Priestess of the Temple of the Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet in Cactus Springs, Nevada, for more than ten years. She established the Temple as an institution, giving it a foothold in an unlikely environment, between a nuclear test site and the airforce base, not far from the adult Disneyland that is Las Vegas. She created and sustained a community of people who visited the temple for rituals, healing and counselling. She passed away on March 24, 2006.

Susan Petrilli is Associate Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bari, Department of Linguistic Practices and Text Analysis. Her principal areas of study include sign theory, subject theory, theory of meaning and language, communication theory, problems of ideology, translation theory. She has edited three collective volumes of the series Athanor (1999, 2000, 2001) on theory and semiotics of translation, another dedicated to the theme Nero (2003), and the most recent dedicated to Ferruccio Rossi-Landi entitled Lavoro immateriale (2004). Her major publications include: Su Victoria Welby. Significs e filosofia del linguaggio (1998); Teoria dei segni e del linguaggio (1999); and with Augusto Ponzio, I segni e la vita. La semiotica globale di Thomas A. Sebeok (2002); Semioetica (2003); and Views in Literary Semiotics (2003).

Margaret Randall lived for much of her life in Latin America: Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua. She returned to the U.S. in 1984, only to face a deportation order due to the opinions expressed in some of her books. She won her immigration case in 1989 and has resided in her native Albuquerque, New Mexico since. Author of more than 100 books, among her most recent titles are When I Look Into the Mirror and See You; Terror and Resistance; Into Another Time: Grand Canyon Reflections, and forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press, Stones Witness, a multi-genre volume which includes poems, personal narrative, and photographs. She lives with her lifetime companion, artist Barbara Byers.

Renea Roberts believes in an intimate approach when creating Feature length documentaries and shorts. She’s also passionate about alternative energies, permaculture, and learning to garden organically in the high deserts of New Mexico. See www.giftingit.com for more information.

Elisabet Sahtouris is an internationally acclaimed evolution biologist, futurist, and author who teaches sustainable business and globalization as a natural, evolutionary process. She is a fellow of the World Business Academy and a member of the World Wisdom Council. Her venues include the World Bank, Boeing, Siemens, Hewlett-Packard, Tokyo Dome Stadium, Australian National Government, Sao Paulo’s leading business schools, State of the World Forums (New York and San Francisco), and the World Parliament of Religions. Her books include EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution; A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us and Biology Revisioned with Willis Harman. Visit her websites:www.sahtouris.com and www.ratical.org/lifeweb.

For over 30 years, Erella Shadmi has been a radical feminist, lesbian, peace and anti-racist activist in Israel. She is the co-founder of Kol HaIsha, the Jerusalem women’s center, and of the Fifth Mother, a women’s peace movement. She is one of the first Ashkenazi Israelis (Jews of western origin) to speak out against the oppression of Mizrahi Israelis (Jews from Arab countries). Dr. Shadmi is the Head of the Women’s and Gender Program at Beit Berl College. She is also a criminologist who has published numerous critical analyses of Israeli police. Her book, Contemplating Women: Women and Feminism in Israel, is forthcoming.

María Suarez Toro is a Puertorican and Costarican feminist, women´s human rights activist, and communicator. She has been co founder, co director and now producer of Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE) since its birth in 1991. She has also worked as a human rights activist in the Central American Human Rights Commission in the past and also in adult literacy in the region.

Mililani Trask is a Native Hawaiian attorney with an extensive background on Native Hawaiian land trusts, resources, and legal entitlements. Her work has been cited by the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and published by Cultural Survival and IWGIA Magazines on issues relating to Native people and human and civil rights. In October 1993, Ms. Trask was invited to become a member of the prestigious Indigenous Initiative for Peace (IIP), a global body of Indigenous leaders convened by Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu-Tum, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador to the UN Decade on Indigenous Peoples. Since that time, Ms. Trask has worked in the global arena for passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this respect, Ms. Trask attended and participated in the United National Global Consultations in Cairo, Beijing, Copenhagen and Vienna as a Pacific Delegate to the Indigenous caucus. She is a founding member and current Chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network, a coalition of Native American Women whose work includes community based economic development, social justice, human rights, housing and health.

Genevieve Vaughan is an independent researcher, activist, social change philanthropist, and founder of the feminist Austin, Texas-based Foundation for a Compassionate Society in operation from 1987–1998 and in a reduced form until 2005. She is the author of For-Giving: A Feminist Criticism of Exchange (1997) and Homo Donans (2006), and the editor of an issue of the Italian journal Athanor titled Il Dono/The Gift: a Feminist Perspective (2004). She is also the author of two children’s books, Mother Nature’s Children (1999) and Free/Not Free (2007), and has produced a cd of her Songs for the Tree of Life. A documentary about her life, Giving for Giving: Not All Texans Are Like Bush, coproduced by Cara Griswold and Becky Hays of Full Circle Productions, has just been completed. Showings can be scheduled and copies ordered from www.givingforgiving.com. Vaughan’s books and many articles are available free on her website www.gift-economy.com. She is now based in Italy and devotes her time to writing and speaking about the gift economy. She has three daughters.

Frieda Werden is the co-founder and producer of WINGS: Women’s International News Gathering Service; the Spoken Word Coordinator of CJSF-FM, Vancouver; ice President for North America of AMARC and President of the International Association of Women in Radio and TV.

Claudia von Werlhof is a women’s studies professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. She has published numerous articles and books on a feminist theory of society, critiques of and alternatives to capitalism, and on globalization and patriarchy. Her most recent publications are There is An Alternative: Subsistence and Worldwide Resistance to Corporate Globalization (2001), “Using, Producing and Replacing Life? Alchemy as Theory and Practice in Capitalism” (2004), and “The ‘Zapatistas’, the Indigenous Civilization, the Question of Matriarchy and the West” (2005), and “No Critique of Capitalism Without a Critique of Patriarchy! Why the Left is No Alternative” (2007).



Introduction: A Radically Different Worldview is Possible
Genevieve Vaughan

I. The Gift Economy, Past and Present

Indigenous Knowledge and Gift Giving: Living in Community
Jeannette Armstrong

Pan Dora Revisited: From Patriarchal Woman-Blaming to a
Feminist Gift Imaginary
Kaarina Kailo

The Gift Logic of Indigenous Philosophies in the Academy
Rauna Kuokkanen

She Gives the Gift of Her Body
Vicki Noble

The Goddess Temple of Sekhmet: A Gift Economy Project
Patricia Pearlman

Matriarchal Society and the Gift Paradigm: Motherliness as an Ethical Principle
Heide Goettner-Abendroth

Significs and Semioethics: Places of the Gift in Communication Today
Susan Petrilli

The Biology of Business: Crisis as a Gifting Opportunity
Elisabet Sahtouris

II. Gifts Exploited by the Market

Capitalist Patriarchy and the Negation of Matriarchy: The Struggle for a “Deep” Alternative
Claudia von Werlhof

Big Mountain Black Mesa: The Beauty Way
Louise Benally

The Tragedy of the Enclosures: An Eco-Feminist Perspective on Selling Oxygen and Prostitution in Costa Rica
Ana Isla

Real Bodies, Place-Bound Work and Transnational Homemaking: A Feminist Project
Mechthild Hart

The Rural Women’s Movement in South Africa: Land Reform and HIV/AIDs
Sizani Ngubane

Endangered Species: The Language of Our Lives
Margaret Randall

Facing the Shadow of 9-11
Carol Brouillet

Heterosexism and the Norm of Normativity
Genevieve Vaughan

III: Gifts in the Shadow of Exchange

The Khoekhoe Free Economy: A Model for the Gift
Yvette Abrahams

Gift Giving Across Borders
Maria Jimenez

The Gift Economy in the Caribbean: The Gift and the Wind
Peggy Antrobus

The Children of the World: A Gift
Assetou Madeleine Auditore

Solidarity Economics: Women’s Banking Networks in Senegal
Rabia Adelkarim-Chikh

Women’s Funding Partnerships
Tracy Gary

Gift Giving and New Communication Technologies
Andrea Alvarado Vargas and María Suárez Toro

Trapped by Patriarchy: Can I Forgive Men?
Erella Shadmi

Women’s Community Gifting: A Feminist Key to an Alternative Paradigm
Linda Christiansen-Ruffman

IV. Gift Giving for Social Transformation

Indigenous Women and Traditional Knowledge: Reciprocity is the Way of Balance
Mililani Trask

Supryia and the Reviving of a Dream: Toward a New Political Imaginary
Corinne Kumar

Reflecting on Gifting and the Gift Economy in El Salvador
Marta Benavides

From Forced Gifts to Free Gifts
Paola Melchiori

The Gift of Community Radio
Frieda Werden

Gifting at the Burning Man Festival
Renea Roberts

Activism: A Creative Gift for a Better World
Brackin “Firecracker”

Women’s Giving: Feminist Transformation and Human Welfare
Angela Miles

Position Statement for a Peaceful World


1 review for Women and the Gift Economy: A Radically Different World View is Possible

  1. InannaWebmaster

    Reviewed by Joanna Swanger

    “The World Social Forum (wsf) has performed a vital function for people dedicated to economic restructuring toward social justice and sustainable peace: it has empowered them collectively by introducing them to one another. Still, much of the discourse at the wsf also demonstrates that when people convene on the basis of a shared frustration with the global economy, they might use the opportunity primarily to create a space of comfort, which is accomplished in the wsf through the ritual refrain of such grievances as corporate irresponsibility, environmental devastation, and the long-known complicity of economic structures in exacerbating racism, classism, and sexism. To go no further than this, however, means an opportunity is lost, for the question of what is to be done must be answered through dialogue and collaboration grounded in critical analysis. The 33 contributors to this creative and analytically rich volume have answered the call to continue wsf-inspired discussions and collaborate in the necessary work of peace-building through cultural change toward ec-onomic transformation.

    This collection resulted from a post-wsf conference in 2004 on the theme of transforming Patriarchal Capitalism via the gift economy. The authors argue the need for a paradigm shift to make solutions visible by recasting the nature of the problem. It is not a lack of individual morals or integrity on the part of certain actors—e.g., the agents of transnational lending institutions, corporations, and the investor class—that causes the aforementioned grievances. It is the cultural logic of exchange, the systemic imperative of near-sole reliance upon the profit motive to mobilize resources. The logic of exchange attempts to harness self-interest in the service of the greater good, but it has failed to meet needs, in large measure because this is not what it is designed to do. The cultural logic of gift giving, however, takes as its fundamental objective meeting the needs of others. Genevieve Vaughan writes: “The gift interaction is transitive and … [creates] a relation of inclusion between the giver and the receiver.… Gift giving implies the value of the other while the exchange transaction … is reflexive and implies the value only of oneself. Gift giving is qualitative rather than quantitative, other-oriented rather than ego-oriented, inclusive rather than exclusive.”

    The emancipatory potential to be unleashed by and through the gift economy begins with quelling cynicism by making manifest the extant gift economy in operation, and this collection presents wonderful examples in this vein, such as Jeannette Armstrong’s description of gifting among the Sylix people of Okanagan (British Columbia); Rabia Adelkarim-Chikh’s discussion of solidarity economics within women’s banking networks in Senegal; and Yvette Abrahams’ discussion of gifting among the Khoekhoe prior to European colonialism in South Africa and vestiges of gifting that remain. This volume also contributes to liberation by excelling at highlighting the efforts of two vast groups of people who have historically been underrepresented—or ignored altogether—by prominent leftist critiques: Indigenous peoples and women. Both Jeannette Armstrong and Mililani Trask argue that what most unites Indigenous cultures in contradistinction to the culture of patriarchal capitalism is precisely reciprocity, both sociocultural and ecological. Thus, Indigenous cultures are the vanguard of workable economic structures, which, the authors argue, will achieve their greatest viability at local and regional levels. So too do women have something unique to contribute to the process of emancipation more generally. First, many of the authors discuss the matriarchal principle as the organizing principle for the gift economy. Heidi Goettner-Abendroth writes, “The principle of motherliness is the opposite [from those that underlie the logic of exchange], where altruism reigns and the well-being of all is at the centre.” Second, Linda Christiansen-Ruffman proffers a treatment of the different economic calculus (distinct from that attributed to Homo economicus) women routinely practice and the redefinition of wealth that guides women’s choices, a redefinition distinguished by its collective and relational orientation. The authors do not have much patience for the criticism of essentialism, for it is a fundamental pragmatism that drives their search for ways of organizing economies that work; the charge of essentialism, while sound at times, can also be an obstacle to transformation. Actually, the authors are careful to illustrate that giving is a human attribute (of Homo donans), not one unique to women. Semiotician Susan Petrilli contributes a marvelous discussion of gifting in the arts of language and rhetoric. Vaughan adds, “Looking at language as transposed gift giving … confirms the pan-human character of gift giving…”

    A critical tension runs throughout the book, as the authors portray the complexity of the relationship between the (parasitic) patriarchal capitalist economy, and the (host) gift economy, which sustains the former, filling in to meet needs unmet by the former. Vaughan writes, “[T]he gift economy, consistent with its principle, gives to the exchange economy … giving it value [by means of exploitation, which is viewed as the capture of free gifts—e.g., surplus labor, remittances sent by migrants] and thereby colluding with its own oppression.” Continuing with the theme of potential parasitic destruction of the host, Peggy Antrobus writes, “If we do not recognize and affirm the gift economy, it will die.” On the other hand, many authors illustrate precisely the resilience of the gift economy. Antrobus herself describes how Hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada but left in its wake a functioning gift economy, which was indeed the only way people could mobilize resources under the circumstances. Furthermore, Vaughan writes that in spite of their seeming ubiquity and omnipotence, the normative structures of the logic of exchange are “actually rather fragile and therefore [need] to be protected from the possible alternatives.” Claudia Von Werlhof adds another layer of complexity by arguing that it is the damage sustained by the gift economy and its most consistent practitioners that is “one of the main reasons for the depth of the crisis of… contemporary civilization.”

    So, which is the more fragile system, and which the more resilient? This critical tension is resolved in part by Paola Melchiori’s article, which recognizes the paradox and draws a distinction between the free gift economy and the forced gift economy. Melchiori writes of the collapse of the Argentine economy in 2001:

    The crisis was terrible, people were starving, but another economy was being discovered and used, awakening an enormous energy among people, developing what I would call a “healthy crisis” of the social imaginary. Other ways to survive, other social fabrics, became visible and imaginable.

    When the dominant logic is in place, the (forced) gift economy is indeed strained, often to the breaking point; but when the dominant logic of exchange suddenly fails on a massive scale, the (free) gift economy is renewed and flourishes.

    The astute reader of this collection will see that it is the logic of the gift that is the more resilient because while the logic of exchange utilizes one narrow aspect of the complex human character—self-interest—and does so quite often to bad effect, the gift economy harnesses a much wider range of human capabilities that arise naturally from the parental response to children’s vulnerability and from ecological dictates. The insistence upon strict adherence to the logic of exchange—based on self-interest and a narrow concept of freedom enshrined in the market—has brought us the myriad vexations of the current global economy. The praxis of the gift economy responds with the beauty of cultural diversity. Corinne Kumar writes,

    What we need in the world today are new universalisms … universalisms that recognize the universal in the specific civilizational idioms in the world.… Universalisms that will respect the plurality of the different societies, of their philosophy, of their ideology, their traditions and cultures; one that will be rooted in the particular, in the vernacular, one which will find a resonance in the different civilizations, birthing new cosmologies.

    Indeed, the authors of this volume are midwives in this critical process.”
    Joanna Swanger is Director of the Peace and Global Studies Program at Earlham College. She is recently the co-author, with Howard Richards, of The Dilemmas of Social Democracies: Overcoming Obstacles to a More Just World (Lanham, md: Lexington Books, 2006).

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