The "Indian gift" and the Taiwan indigenous literary hunter's gift

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Journal article

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Studia Orientalia Slovaca

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Univerzity Komenského v Bratislave, Katedrou východoázijských štúdií


My basic observation is that gifts in Taiwan aboriginal literature tend to be given by hunters, and that hunters tend to give gifts. My thesis is that Taiwanese indigenous writers of stories about gift exchange are constructing or reconstructing indigenous individual, social and ecological identities in a modern social context. I emphasize that I am discussing literary gifts rather than actual gifts because this concerns the critical context for this article. One would assume that this context would include the wealth of scholarly literature on the gift as a social institution, a body of scholarship to which anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers have contributed. It does, and a literary scholar interested in gift giving will find this tradition to be of inherent interest. But a study of literary gift-giving has an awkward place in this scholarship. Thus, I shall very briefly trace the broad outlines of this tradition, then introduce some qualifications that relate to the study of the literary gift. I apply this qualified model to the interpretation of four Taiwanese literary hunter’s gifts and offer some preliminary reflections on the results of the interpretation. I end the article with a self-critique of my method, which is to ‘apply’ a simplified anthropological model to the study of local indigenous literature without doing the kind of local fieldwork that illuminates and makes possible the refinement or interrogation of the model.

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Copyright © 2012 Univerzity Komenského v Bratislave, Katedrou východoázijských štúdií

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Recommended Citation

Sterk, D. (2012). The "Indian gift" and the Taiwan indigenous literary hunter's gift. Studia Orientalia Slovaca, 11(1), 79-100.