This article adds to conceptualisations of philanthropy. Applying an ontological approach within an evolutionary perspective, it advances an analogous African narrative of pro-social transactions of gift-giving, or gifting, associated with Marcel Mauss. Originating on the continent, this relational behaviour is subject to indeterminate complex processes which co-determine any society’s institutional design. Analysing gifting’s sociopolitical influence on the continent pays attention to the (non-)agonistic as well as the ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ features of gifting across pre- to post-colonial eras, examining their role in establishing patrimonial systems of governance. When gifting is set against (institutionalised) philanthropy’s dominant discourse, issues for its critique are identified. Suggestions for further inquiry and implications for improving development on the continent are provided.
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An ontological approach tries to understand the essence of a phenomenon, explain how it has arisen and provide a rationale for any categories to be applied.
Giving up one’s life for another is an exceptional case.
There were nonetheless exceptions to the giver and recipient knowing each other. Sundstrom (1974) documents of incidences, in pre-colonial Africa of host–visitor gift exchanges especially among visiting long distance traders and local hosts who did not necessarily know each other.
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Fowler, A., Mati, J.M. African Gifting: Pluralising the Concept of Philanthropy. Voluntas 30, 724–737 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-018-00079-z
- (Non-)agnostic transactions
- Ontological analysis