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Repaying and Cherishing the Gift of Life

Gift Exchange and Living-related Kidney Transplantation in the Philippines

Yosuke Shimazono

This paper considers living-related kidney transplantation, especially that between family members in the Philippines. Drawing on the anthropological theory of gift, it explores two aspects of the gift relationship—the relationship between the donor and the recipient and the relationship between the recipient and the object—and describes two categories of acts—'acknowledging the debt/repaying the gift of life' and 'taking care of a kidney/cherishing the gift'. This paper seeks to show that there is an internal tension in live kidney transplantation between two rival principles of gift operative in the world of Filipino family and kinship: one akin to the Maussian or 'archaic' gift and the other that places cherishing of the gift over repaying of the debt.