Abstract: While contemporary philosophers have been content to declare the logical possibilities of sacrifice exhausted, to have finally ‘sacrificed sacrifice,’ for many people around the world the notion of sacrifice – whether religious, secular, or somewhere in between – remains absolutely central to their understanding of themselves, their relations with others, and their place in the world. From religion to economics, and from politics to the environment, sacrificial tropes frequently emerge as key means of mediating and propagating various forms of power, moral discourse, and cultural identity. This paper lays out reasons for retaining sacrifice as an analytical concept within anthropology, and argues for the importance of a renewed focus on the ‘other side of sacrifice’, as a means of understanding better how sacrifice emerges beyond ritual and enters into the full gamut of social life.
This article seeks to identify and place the recent scholarship termed the ‘anthropology of Christianity’, to offer an account of its originality and achievements, and to point out some limiting tendencies. The argument in brief is this: anthropologists have neglected Christianity for reasons that now seem implausible. There is a small body of work that overtly recognizes this neglect and seeks to rectify it. In this work of rectification, there is a particular relationship to theology; some anthropologists of Christianity seek to rehabilitate Christian categories, drawing on John Milbank’s writing in particular. While applauding this approach, I point to Susan Harding’s work as offering a particular emphasis: it recognizes that when categories of investigation and the phenomenon under examination change simultaneously (which we may term an ‘event’), a more subtle ethnographic and explanatory performance is called for.