Material objects bespeak the image a person wishes to project of him/herself into the community. That image comes of the condition of abundance. The projection of an image of oneself is the assignment of meaning to oneself.
Gift giving addresses itself to that self-assignment of meaning. We use gifts to assist each other in shaping who and what we mean to others. Preferences define who and what we are as isolated individuals; meanings define who and what we are insofar as others get to make who and what we are.
Meaning is a joint product. Meaning implies the individual's lack of absolute autonomy and begins to define the autonomy of the collective to which one belongs. Here is where the term 'belong' or 'identify' begins to shade into ambiguous meaning, where the part and the parcel both operate in a complex simultaneity.
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