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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses sacrifice and gift exchange as perspectives on ritual relations between gods and humans. It begins by noting the role of Protestant theology in emphasizing the centrality of sacrifice to religion and the contributions of Victorian evolutionist scholars as well as twentieth-century thinkers to the conceptualization of sacrifice. Problems with these analyses—and with interpretations of mythic narratives of sacrifice more generally—suggest the value of a comprehensive religio-historical analysis of sacrifice. This suggests the value of considering sacrifice within a more general framework: as communicative gift in a gift economy. Sacrificial ritual establishes ritual commensality, thus constituting a performance of social order and power. Anthropological concepts and typologies of gifting facilitate comparing and contrasting exchange relations between humans with those between humans and gods. More generally, it allows us to characterize the roles of exchange relations in society, thus adding to our understanding of religion’s social roles.

Keywords: communication, gift, exchange, reciprocity, ritual, sacrifice, social relations

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