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Marilyn Strathern: Gifts money cannot buy

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The Inaugural CUSAS Annual Marilyn Strathern Lecture

Dame Marilyn Strathern: Gifts money cannot buy

The lecture will be followed by a wine reception at CRASSH . The lecture is free and open to all, no registration required.


How might one consider debt in a highly emotional situation where its discharge is not possible? In the UK arena of bodily material procured for research or medicine, donations cannot be reciprocated. What are called ‘gifts’ are not only to diffuse entities such as society or science; the procurement and treatment process often creates specific, if anonymous, recipients who are burdened with / grateful for a gift they cannot repay. Indeed the ability to pay – and thus pay-off – the perceived debt is usually against the law. The gift entails, and thus summons, the absence of money.

As a prelude to the conference on Debt, this CUSAS Lecture takes a step back, and offers a comment on gifts in a context where money forever hovers on the margins of the imagination, and where the more it is banned from sight, the more it creeps back in. In endless discussions about remuneration or compensation payments that are meant to fall short of outright purchase, people tend to focus on the problematic characteristics of diverse organs and tissues, including gametes, and assume they know what money is or does. This Lecture offers some reflections on the way money enters the debates.

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This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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