The main aim of the transdisciplinary project "The Meanings and Workings of the Gift: From Modernity to the Era of New Technologies" is to analyse how recent changes and challenges in technology, genetics, politics, and bioethics have affected our existing ideas of gift-giving and gift exchange, and how they invite us to rethink the gift.
On the one hand, we aspire to write a history of the present by going back to the emergence of the modern discourses of the gift at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and tracing their development up until nowadays. On the other hand, we explore contemporary manifestations of the gift and ask what the gift means and does for us today – what kind of relations, assemblages, and agencies it fosters, sustains, enacts, and makes possible?
The project consists of three interconnected sub-studies and an art project. Together they explore the discourses of the modern gift structured around rigid binary oppositions; the various questions and demands converging on the notion of the gift; and how recent transformations of society, new technologies, and discoveries in science affect our understanding and practices of generosity, gift exchange, sharing, and hospitality.
While the main emphasis of the project is in gift theory, we also employ a rich body of empirical research materials, including a corpus of theoretical and fictional texts/narratives, scientific records of new genetic discoveries, and art objects and performances mediated by new technologies. We argue that such contemporary social and political realities as social media platforms, bio-objects, and the refugee problem are closely connected to the problem of the gift, and propose that a dialogue between scholarship and art provides us novel and fruitful perspectives on them.
The project is lead by Professor Olli Pyyhtinen. Other project group members are Margrit Shildrick, Alexandra Urakova and Niilo Rinne.