The gift in question

The holiday season is a time for celebrating, for getting together with friends and family, for sharing. It is the time of year when our thoughts go out to loved ones, and also to those in need. There are many forms of giving associated with the annual guignolées; we give money, foodstuffs, time. For a long time, research has taken an interest in the act of giving. Today, researchers from numerous disciplines continue to study gift giving with the goal of discovering its fundamental principles. Such is the case for François Gauthier, research professor with the Department of Religious Studies at Université du Québec à Montréal, who is exploring the subject within the context of an event that is quite original and far removed from the holiday season: the Burning Man Festival.

For a long time, research has taken an interest in the act of giving.

Once a year, thousands of participants gather for a week in Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create an ephemeral city dedicated to art, cooperation and exchange – human and material, never monetary. François Gauthier explores the gift economy that lies at the heart of the Burning Man experience, using an approach linked to the theory of gift giving developed by the researchers of the Paris-based Mouvement anti-utilitariste en sciences sociales, the MAUSS.

In addition to providing a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the sense of community and civic responsibility that characterize this unique cultural event, this research will shed some light on the act central to exchanges between human beings, the act of giving.