Gendering Reciprocity: Solving a Puzzle of Nonreciprocation

  • Ashwin S
  • Tartakovskaya I
  • Ilyina M
 et al. 
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Theories of reciprocity have been surprisingly gender-blind. We develop a gendered account of reciprocity using qualitative data from Russia. We focus on gifts of unpaid task assistance, where gender differences are particularly visible. In our data, women’s gifts of labor involve greater time and effort than men’s, but women report nonreciprocation, while men do not. Paradoxically, the most onerous gifts are those least likely to be recip- rocated. We show how this puzzling finding relates to the gendering of reciprocity. We define four stages of the gift cycle—giving, (non)recognition, (non)reciprocation, and giv- ers’ responses to (non)reciprocation—detailing how each is gendered. We argue that reci- procity is a socially embedded phenomenon that cannot be considered in isolation from gender norms. This insight has implications for research employing reciprocity as a framework, and for debates in relation to issues such as care work and family relations.

Author-supplied keywords

  • community
  • family
  • theory

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  • Sarah Ashwin

  • Irina Tartakovskaya

  • Marina Ilyina

  • Tatyana Lytkina

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