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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Prof Catherine Alexander

Alexander, C. (2016). Charity and philanthropy. In International Encyclopaedia of Anthropology: Anthropology Beyond Text. Callan, H. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Author(s) from Durham


Anthropological analyses of charity are often based on Maussian theories of gift exchange and
inequalities between donor and recipient, sometimes compounded by spectacular displays of
giving or by aid, both humanitarian and faith-based, from the global north to the south. Other
accounts complicate this understanding, variously showing the charitable gift as the recipient’s
right or considering charitable work as a technology of self care. The context and nature of the
donation also affect both donor and recipient; money and blood have very different connotations
and effects as charitable gifts. Ethnographies of charitable action suggest it is a total social fact,
entangling economic, politics, religion and notions of relatedness.