“The 'Force in the Thing': Mauss' Vision of Sociality Without Authority in 'The Gift'”
"What force is there in the thing given that makes the recipient reciprocate it?" Mauss famously asks at the beginning of "The Gift." Readings of Mauss' classic have, since Claude Lévi-Strauss' introduction, centered on Mauss' purported answer in 'hau,' a 'spirit' meant to inhabit things given in Polynesian cultures. Frank argues that this represents a dramatic misreading of Mauss' text, which instead is concerned to retrieve paradigms from Roman law to imagine a society that envisions relationships between persons unmediated by authority.
Stephanie Frank is Lecturer in the Humanities at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches courses in the theory of religion, religion and violence, religion and politics, and world religions. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. The title of her dissertation is, “Secularity in Durkheim’s and Mauss’ Imaginings of Sociality and Sociology.” She also holds an Master's of Philosophy in Philosophical Theology and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Political Theory from Oxford University and Williams College respectively. Her work centers on the intellectual historical valence of secularization and more particularly on the problem of the persistence of theological tropes and arguments in discourse that codes itself as ‘secular.’ She has published on topics from the theological antecedents of Abbé Sieyès’ political theory in the French Revolution to Carl Schmitt’s reading of Hamlet, in journals from "Telos" to "History of European Ideas." She has presented her research at national and international conferences, including Oxford, Frankfurt, Montréal, and Antwerp. Stephanie is currently at work on a book project considering the methodological divergences between Durkheim and Mauss as they took shape over the first years of the twentieth century as exemplifying two different critiques of religion. It is part of a broader project considering the disciplinarization of the French social sciences as the institutionalization of a secularization narrative--and the implication of the category of secularization in disciplinarity more generally. Last but not least, Stephanie is a trained classical pianist and a published short fiction writer.
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