Lilyana Yordanova (EFA), Gift-Giving during the Late Byzantine Period in Theory and Practice
Respondant: Jessica Plant (ASCSA)
Gift-giving is a complex and widely-attested social phenomenon that has interested the Humanities since the beginning of the 20th century. Anthropologists and sociologists were the first to start investigating its functioning: the actors involved, the variety of interactions, the agendas, and the value of the gifts, be it symbolic or economic. Since the 1970s, the subject became important with scholars working on the Classical period and on Medieval Western Europe. Because of their research, and a more general inclination towards interdisciplinary approaches, Byzantine studies also opened up to the topic, more noticeably from the 1980s onward. By the middle of that decade, anthropologists and sociologists on both sides of the Atlantic had already come up with a robust theoretical framework to tackle gift-giving and, from a methodological perspective, it is interesting to investigate the ways in which Byzantine scholars, and especially historians of Byzantine art, used and adapted this framework for their own research since the 2000s. In that sense, my paper will focus on interdisciplinary dialogue.
Two points will be addressed:
1) the socio-anthropological concepts of Marcel Mauss, Pierre Bourdieu and Arjun Appadurai pertaining to gift-giving and how they shaped the study of Late Byzantine patronage and art;
and 2) the advancement which art historical analysis can bring to the assessment of this practice, based on material evidence of the 12th-15th centuries from Medieval Bulgaria.