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Theorising the gift through visual culture

Fuery, Kelli Louise (2005) Theorising the gift through visual culture. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis discusses the gift in terms of presence and interpretation using varied examples of image that form a visual culture. It contextualises the term giftness by analysing its use and our socio-cultural understanding of its function as it relates to the gift process. The hermeneutic processes attached to both the gift, and gifting, are multifarious and require examination of moments of instability present in the act of interpretation and meaning. The gift relationship is juxtaposed against the relationship between image and reader/observer to highlight the abstract quality of the gift and its inherent instability that exists within gift interpretation in general.

The fundamental structure and unity of the gift, as is based upon relations between subjects, helps to identify and analyse systems of power and subjectivity developed in terms of investment in order to emphasise the complexities that arise through inter-subjective relations, particularly gift exchange, and those between subject and image. Certain theoretical models help to exemplify and illuminate this thesis, predominantly post-structuralist and psychoanalytic theories. The gift's condition of instability is further examined in terms of discursive formation and function, looking at how the gift is enunciated so that one can recognise a gift and giving, and acknowledge its problematic status. The relationship between subject and image is investigated to see if we are able to read this investment as a gift relationship within the context of giftness, that is when giftness operates as an instable and challenging element to discursive exchange in visual mediums such as film, painting, television, art and photography. An examination of the gift aporia in this thesis is directed towards a subject's investment in the image. What transpires between subject and image is akin to what circulates between giver and receiver, on the basis of investment. On this basis, the present configuration of giftness is utilised in terms of the image.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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