Is it possible to give, freely, without expectation of return? That is, can generosity ever really exist? Or are we trapped in restricted economies of exchange which find us always calculating some profit to ourselves, whether in this world or the next? The problem of the possibility of generosity and altruism is of central importance to current deliberations about ethics and economics. This seminar will read its way through the modern genealogy of the thinking of the gift, beginning with its foundation in anthropological studies of so-called ‘primitive’ economies. It is of some interest that the modern concern with the gift appears in the guise of anthropology rather than from its well-established place in the Christian theological tradition. This course will consider the debate over the gift among anthropologists such as Mary Douglas and Marshall Sahlins, in the extraordinary theses of Georges Bataille, and will place special emphasis on the importance of the gift in the work of Jacques Derrida.