Ungiven: Philanthropy as critique

Dwaipayan Banerjee, Jacob Copeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on field research principally from contexts of medical blood donation in North India, this article describes how gifts that are given often critique—by obviation—those that remain ungiven: the care not provided by the Indian state for Bhopal survivors, the family members unwilling to donate blood for their transfusion-requiring relative, and so on. In this way, giving can come to look like a form of criticism. The critiques that acts of giving stage are of absences and deficits: we present cases where large paper hearts donated by survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster to the prime minister of India signal his lack of one, where donated human blood critiques others’ unwillingness to do so, where acts of blood donation critique and protest communal violence, and where similar acts of giving over simultaneously highlight a deficit in familial affects and an attempt to resuscitate damaged relational forms. We thus illustrate how critique can operate philanthropically by way of partonomic relations between the given and not-given.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-350
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number1
Early online date16 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Mar 2018

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