Religious Gifts and Social Transaction in Modern Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Religious Gifts and Social Transaction in Modern Asia
Stream: Anthropology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Amnuaypond Kidpromma, Lancaster University, United Kingdom (organizer, presenter)
Hiroko Kawanami, Lancaster University, United Kingdom (presenter, chair)
Ryosuke Kuramoto, University of Tokyo, Japan (presenter, discussant)
Mariko Hamaya, Kyoto University, Japan (presenter)


This panel aims to re-evaluate the idea of gift of Marcel Mauss and his notion that the religious gift is not free. The panellists in their ethnographic studies show how religious gifts are or not reciprocated, and how some social transactions involving gift-giving serve an important function to lubricate or create social relations in contemporary Asia. The work of Mauss has been critiqued by Western scholars; Jonathan Parry and Alain Testart among many others, who stated that religious offerings should be free and the donor-giver should not expect anything in return from a religious recipient such as a Hindu priest or a Buddhist monk. This panel, via detailed ethnographic studies in India and Myanmar, highlights the importance of social and religious transactions, and examine how Hindu and Buddhist practitioners instigate as well as mediate reciprocity via the medium of religious gifts.
The panel introduces emic perspectives from the standpoints of religious practitioners; Hindu ascetics, Vaishnava renouncers, and Buddhists monks, in order to explore how they perceive their transactions with society, and understand how they actively initiate, negotiate, and manoeuvre the flow of goods towards them, and at times asserting wider religious and socio-political influence as a result.