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'If I Receive It, It Is a Gift; If I Demand It, Then It Is a Bribe'

On the Local Meaning of Economic Transactions in Post-Soviet Ukraine

Abel Polese

Challenging the main reports of corruption in Ukraine, this article proposes that most of the 'economic transactions' that are reported as bribe taking have a deeper meaning and can be analysed within the framework of gift exchange proposed by Marcel Mauss. This paper thus focuses on the three alleged most 'corrupted' places in Ukraine: a university, a hospital and a police control post, in order to develop a detailed analysis of the meanings behind these transactions. Furthermore, it examines the particular role that social actors take within these arrangements. Finally, I propose the recognition of a grey zone between corruptions as evident in the ethnographic examples analysed in the course of this paper.