This post is part of the Art as Gift Project
In his 1925 essay The Gift, Marcel Mauss addresses the nature of the gifts exchanged in rituals such as the potlatch. Asking “what force is there in the given thing that causes its recipient to pay it back?” (GT, 41) Mauss names this “force” hau, a Maori word which might be translated as “aura.”
Hau signals the hidden power of the gift to demand restitution, it is that which carries out the synthesis, essential to the gift, between two antithetical operations, giving/taking or giving/returning.
Next Post: Hau: a Structuralist Critique