Mauss, Marcel (1872–1950) By Guédon, Cécile
Born in Épinal, France, Marcel Israël Mauss, the nephew and a disciple of Émile Durkheim, was a sociologist whose work greatly influenced the nascent discipline of anthropology. After teaching ‘History of Religion and Uncivilised Peoples’ at the École pratique des hautes études from 1901 to 1931, he took up the chair of Sociology at the Collège de France. He is widely known for his study of the rites of exchange across cultures (‘Essai sur the don’, 1923–1924). In Mauss’s theory, the gift is seen as the result of an almost magical operation that goes beyond the sheer materiality of the object presented, engaging the receiver as well as the giver in a form of spiritual transaction.