Gift and commodity: Sociocultural economies, indigenous religions, and academic exchange practices

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Philip Arnold


Gift, Commodity, Sociocultural economies, Indigenous religions, Academic exchange, Blackfoot

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology


In this dissertation, I conduct a thorough investigation and reapplication of the interpretive terms "gift" and "commodity." The critical investigation of these terms reveals that their use can contribute greatly to scholars' appreciation of differences in social organization. More important, however, this dissertation provides a case study and example--focusing upon the Blackfoot peoples of North America and their medicine bundles--of how the careful use of these concepts can also reveal overlooked ontological dimensions to material exchange between cultures. As cultural contact, the objectivization of others, and the commoditization of culture continues, the recognition of these dimensions to exchange is of great importance. A more thorough recognition of the wide-ranging implications of cultural exchange will contribute to a more ethical, accurate, and meaningful approach to the study of religion for all parties. Because this approach can be simplified by understanding religion as an orienting phenomenon that is potentially tied to all social exchanges, this dissertation also illustrates the contribution that religious studies can make to related disciplines and fields concerned with understanding otherwise discrete dimensions of human life.


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