Mayblin, “The Untold Sacrifice: The Monotony and Incompleteness of Self-Sacrifice in Northeast Brazil”

Mayblin, Maya. 2013.  The Untold Sacrifice: The Monotony and Incompleteness of Self-Sacrifice in Northeast Brazil. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology (early digital release DOI:10.1080/00141844.2013.821513).

Abstract: There is no such thing as an accidental sacrifice. Sacrifice is always pre-meditated, and if not entirely goal-oriented, at the very least inherently meaningful as a process in itself. This paper is about how we might begin to understand sacrifices that do not conform to these rules. It concerns the question: does sacrifice exist outside of its (often) dramatic, self-conscious elaboration? Within the Brazilian Catholic tradition everyday life – ideally characterised by monotonous, undramatic, acts of self-giving – is ‘true sacrifice’. For ordinary Catholics, the challenge is not how to self-sacrifice, but how to make one’s mundane life of self-sacrifice visible whilst keeping one’s gift of suffering ‘free’. In this paper I describe, ethnographically, the work entailed as one of ‘revelation’ and use the problems thrown up to reflect upon both the limits and advantages of Western philosophical versus anthropological understandings of Christian sacrificial practices to date.

 

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