Human Sacrifice and the Loss of Transformative Power

in Social Analysis

Sacrifice is an act and a concept of considerable importance to contemporary conflict. However, interpretations of the role and nature of sacrifice vary historically, culturally, and situationally. This article discusses the various ways that sacrifice has been interpreted in the anthropological literature, including an analysis of forms of conflict, negotiation, and sacrifice pertaining to Bougainville. Professional conciliators and government emissaries negotiating a solution to the Bougainville conflict brought into play ideologies and processes they often claimed were based on an understanding of indigenous ways of resolving conflict. A critical assessment of this claim discusses the possible effects of the co-option of ritual and traditional means of negotiation and considers what is lost in translation.