Maternal Gift Economy: Breaking Through -
Ongoing Salons

Every two weeks

Maternal Gift Economy Movement - Salon #33 - Marx, the Market and the Mother - Part 2

May 21, 2022 - 11am - 1pm US CT / Noon - 2pm ET (New York)

Featuring Genevieve Vaughan and guests

Moderated by Letecia Layson

Genevieve Vaughan

Marx opens his famous treatise on the economy Das Kapital, with the analysis of the interaction of the exchange of commodities and money. He reveals how this simple interaction that we do every day, is in fact the center point of a social fabric that determines our lives in many ways. It both connects and divides us, making space for and giving rise to distorted (patriarchal) power relations, poverty of the many as well as extreme wealth for the few, while at the same time emphasizing 'equality'.

The importance of this analysis of such a commonplace fact, has taken some time to dawn even upon Marxist scholars but took a leap forward with the recognition of the work of Alfred Sohn-Rethel, who showed that as our ubiquitous 'social nexus', commodity exchange for money is an abstraction in reality and that it gives rise to abstract thinking. For example the Kantian categories are not apriori but come from the practice of 'real abstraction' in exchange. This possibility has been a focus of much discussion recently by philosophers like Zizeck, Heinrich, Postone, Lotz and many others as well as the classicist Richard Seaford who sees the coinage of money as the basis of Ancient Greek philosophy.

In this talk I will show that there is another, prior social nexus that is much more widespread than commodity exchange, the nexus of the maternal gift, which has been hidden and forced into the background by the market, but nevertheless persists unacknowledged and un named as the source of positive human interaction, of communication, of language and even of profit itself.

Thinking about the market always begins from exchange and does not see the deeper source as the unilateral gift economy and the human relations constructed within it. This is in part due to the invisible parasitic relation of the market upon gifting, a relation that is facilitated by (hiding it) and by misogyny, patriarchy and the penalization of childhood and mothering. Bringing the social nexus of the maternal gift economy into the light allows us to see that commodity exchange is only one variation upon it, a conditional gift, quid pro quo- not the logic or the source of our humanity.

In fact the cause of Earth's problems now is this nexus of exchange that we must somehow diminish and even eliminate in order to give the gift of a solution to the terrible problems that patriarchal capitalism is causing for all on Mother Earth.


Genevieve Vaughan (b.1939) is an independent researcher who lives part time in Italy and part in Texas. She created the multicultural all-woman activist Foundation for a Compassionate Society (1987-2005) and the Temple of Sekhmet in the Nevada desert (1992 – ongoing) and she co-created the network: International Feminists for a Gift Economy (2001 – ongoing). Her books are For-Giving, a Feminist Criticism of Exchange (1997), Homo Donans (2006) and The Gift in the Heart of Language: the Maternal Source of Meaning (2015). She has edited Il Dono/The Gift (2004), Women and the Gift Economy (2007) and The Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy (2019). A volume of the Canadian Women’s Studies Journal dedicated to the maternal gift economy has just appeared (2020)

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Ana Isla

Presentation topic: Marx, Ecology, and Ecofeminism

The point of departure of traditional Marxism theory is the contradiction between capitalist productive forces and production relations, The agent of the socialist revolution was the working class. The site of transformation is politics and the state and the process of production and exchange. Marx did not theorize the relationship between social and material dimensions of production conditions.

The point of departure for an “Ecological Marxism” theory is the contradiction between capitalist production relations (and productive forces) and the conditions of capitalist production.” The critical mass are the “new social movements” such as Socialist Ecofeminism (SE).

SE has long considered issues of unpaid and community work, women’s and nature’s work as foundational to economic growth. They introduce a historically grounded socio-economic element to the woman/ecology analysis, attending to environmental issues which particularly affect all economically disadvantaged women but particularly women from Third World Countries, women of colour, and the working poor.


Ana Isla is a Professor Emerita from the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Women and Gender Studies, Brock University, Canada.

Author of The "Greening" of Costa Rica: Women, Peasant, Indigenous People and the Remaking of Nature, (Toronto University Press, 2015); and the editor of Climate Chaos: Ecofeminism and the Land Question (Inanna Publications & Education Inc., Toronto, 2019). She authored several articles on extractivism in English, Spanish, and Portuguez.

Angela Miles

Angela Miles is a founding member of Toronto Women for a Just and Healthy Planet, Antigonish Women's Association, Feminist Network for a Gift Economy and a member of the editorial board of Canadian Woman Studies. She is Professor Emerita at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto where she co-founded the International Women’s Human Rights Education Summer Institute. Her publications include, Integrative Feminisms: Building Global Visions and the edited collection Women in a Globalizing World: Transforming Equality, Development, Diversity and Peace.

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Restoring the Kinship Worldview

A Conversation with Darcia Narvaez and Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows)

Saturday, May 28th - 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM CT

Moderated by Letecia Layson

Restoring the Kinship Worldview addresses the potentially impending environmental apocalypse with the idea that Indigenous worldviews are essential to humanity’s continuation. That, in order to survive, we must shift toward a more connected relationship with each other and the Earth.

With years of research and experience in Indigenous scholarship and activism, authors Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) and Darcia Narvaez recognize that the original Indigenous understanding of the world, one that guided us for 99% of human history, offers the most pivotal way to restore balance to life on Earth.

In this book, they have put together 28 powerful worldview precepts from various Indigenous leaders. Accompanied by the editors’ own analyses, each chapter reflects the wisdom of Indigenous worldviews such as:

  • Egalitarian rule versus hierarchical governance
  • A fearless trust in the universe, instead of a fear-based culture
  • Emphasizing generosity and the greater good instead of pursuing selfish goals and for personal gain
  • The laws of nature as the highest rules for living

Effectively tying each precept to the crises we face today, Restoring the Kinship Worldview is a salve for our times, a nourishment for our collective, and a holistic orientation that will lead us away from extinction toward an integrated, sustainable future.

Darcia Narvaez

Our very first relationship is with mother. Mother offers the physiological and communicative nurturing that initiates a child’s entry into the community (Vaughan 2015). Mother’s steadiness and tenderness build the necessary psychosocial neurobiological features that will allow the child to thrive within the community as a growing member. But mother’s devotion to her child depends on felt community support and, traditionally, the community participates in the raising of the child. The good enough community sets up the practices and policies that make good enough caregiving possible. They provide the evolved nest and grow a cooperative, prosocial, healthy member of the community.

Darcia Narvaez is Professor Emerita of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, Fellow of the American Psychological Association and American Educational Research Association. She employs a lifespan, interdisciplinary approach to studying evolved morality, child development and flourishing. She blogs for Psychology Today (“Moral Landscapes”) and hosts the webpage

Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows)

Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows), aka Don Trent Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D., is internationally respected for his research and publications about Indigenous worldviews. Formerly Dean of Education at Oglala Lakota College and tenured Associate Professor of Education at Northern Arizona University, he is currently a professor with Fielding Graduate University. Selected as one of 27 "Visionaries in Education," he is the author of 21 books, half of which are about Indigenous worldview applications for education, sustainability, wellness, and justice.

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