This article aims to shed light on a divination episode, which most blood sacrifices begin with in many West African societies, by examining how this ritual practice is carried out among the Kabye of northern Togo and by analyzing it in relation to
Triggering Critical Reflexive Stances on Ritual Action in Togo
Ritual, Social Change and Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse
The article begins by examining Durkheim’s editorial role in the creation of Hubert and Mauss’s essay on sacrifice, published in his new journal, the Année sociologique, in 1899. It then brings out how, in Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, Durkheim operated both with an ‘official’ and a more or less ‘hidden’ theory of sacrifice, the first based on the approach in Hubert and Mauss’s essay, the second rooted in Durkheim’s earlier views and critical editorial comments on Hubert and Mauss’s ideas. In the process it brings out, through a detailed analysis of the work’s chapters specifically on sacrifice but also on piacular rites, tensions, ambiguities and cross-purposes in the work as a whole. These especially turn round Durkheim’s approach to violence and to the sacrificial offering or gift, and are also evident in his concern with different types of effervescence, the foundational and commemorative, as well as the ‘joyous’ and piacular. The article concludes by linking these tensions with issues at stake in Durkheim’s interest in the French Revolution and account of the role of effervescence in moments of rupture and fundamental social change.
Bilal Tawfiq Hamamra
Lady Lumley’s Iphigenia, a dramatization of sacrifice for a political cause, echoes the Lumley family’s participation in the politics of the 1550s. The role of Lady Lumley’s father in the events surrounding Lady Jane Grey’s death illuminates his daughter’s translation of Euripides, revealing affinities with Palestinian constructions of gender and female ‘martyrdom’ whereby women transcend convention while self-silencing their voices of protest. In both the fictional world of Lumley’s Iphigenia and contemporary Palestine, marriage and sacrifice are metaphorically associated. Clytemnestra’s opposition to Agamemnon’s plan to sacrifice Iphigenia and the Chorus’s complicity with the former enacts a presentist dialogue with contemporary Palestinian mothers divided in their support of or opposition to their daughters’ participation in armed resistance. Controversially, in common Palestinian parlance those dying defending the Palestinian cause (including, even more controversially, suicide bombers) are termed ‘martyrs’ for a just cause. Iphigenia’s heroism and Agamemnon’s indecisions therefore bear contemporary resonances.
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.
The hegemony of the 'secular' is challenged through an exposition of the hero rites for the fallen among the Tamil Tigers. Overemphasis on the secular strands in LTTE ideology betrays a textual formalism and disregards the cosmological background of the cultural producers-cum-audience. Such a perspective neglects the embodied practices of Tamil followers. Tamil Saivite worship is permeated by sacrificial symbolism. In Sri Lanka, belief in śakti, divine energy, is displayed in diverse ways that can attract Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists. The rites of Hero Week reveal practices that echo Saivite forms. The LTTE's investment in this event involves massive co-ordination. The climactic moment is a simultaneous act of widespread commemorative grieving. The rite is also an undertaking that mobilizes, remembers, respects, legitimizes, transcends, inspires, and renews.
A Study of Mortuary Ritual as Sacrifice among the Siberian Chukchi
Jeanette Lykkegård and Rane Willerslev
This article describes in detail a mortuary ritual among the Chukchi of Northern Kamchatka and points to its remarkable affinity with an ideal-typical reindeer sacrifice. We argue that this connection between human cremation and sacrifice plays a key role in the people’s attempt to maintain and ensure continuation of their particular kind of life in a cosmos that is replete with numerous other, mostly hostile, life forms. The article describes all stages of the ritual and contextualizes the ritual in the literature on sacrifice. We argue that seeing Chukchi mortuary rituals as a way of transforming any death into a blood sacrifice calls into question well-established understandings of sacrifice as a means of diverting human violence. We suggest that ritual blood sacrifice may instead be seen as a way of protecting the sacrificial victim against violent forces and in doing so, securing the well-being of the community as a whole.
Animal Representations and Urban (Dis)orders during the ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’ in Istanbul and Khartoum
Alice Franck, Jean Gardin and Olivier Givre
Based on comparative fieldwork studies of the Muslim ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’, this article questions the places, shapes and stakes of ritual animal death in the urban space. The examples of Istanbul (Turkey) and Khartoum (Sudan) illustrate different but comparable perceptions, practices and management of a ritual event simultaneously associated with religious traditions and confronted with deep transformations in urbanised and globalised societies. Between ritual normalcy and controversial practice, sacrifice in the city is not reducible to a religious matter but addresses at once spatial, social and cultural issues, informed by economic and political stakes. Through a ritual performance and its manifold aspects, the article explores the multiple and evolving representations of the place and role of animals (and their death) in an urban context.
An Alternative Genealogy of The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
Sondra L. Hausner
This article argues that, although we think of Australian tribal ritual as Durkheim’s source material for his masterwork The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, we must also consider the extensive Indological scholarship on which he draws – and with which he debates – as critical inspirations for the text. His extensive engagement with his nephew, Marcel Mauss, whose earlier work, Sacrifice, with Henri Hubert, was premised on an analysis of Vedic ritual, would have been one source for his study of religion writ large; Elementary Forms also takes up in detail the work of Max Müller, among other Indologists, whose work was well known and widely engaged with in the French and broader European intellectual context of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article argues that the Indological comparative lens was key to Durkheim’s own approach as he worked to articulate the relationship between religion and society; in contrast to the philologists, he argued for the primacy of practice over language in ritual action.
The Place of Destruction in the Organization of Social Life, Which Means Hierarchy
Frederick H. Damon
This article is a thought exercise concerning the following observation: many societies define the good by means of the bad and often organize, wittingly or not, methods of destruction to instantiate the good. Such methods, sometimes dressed up as sacrifice, at other times as scapegoating, and still other times as the experience of necessity, always lead to a hierarchy. Whatever the means, destruction helps to organize social systems throughout the world. The article uses well-known models to develop an understanding of these processes. Beginning with the role of sacrifice in the Kula, the analysis touches on lynching in the United States and then, utilizing underplayed facts in Dumont’s discussion of India, moves to defense spending in contemporary culture. So why is destruction a form of accumulation, the generator of sociality?
An Analysis of Approaches
The contemporary preoccupation with the headscarf and the new veiling shows us the importance of symbolic messages of hair behaviour not only in Western but also in Muslim societies. This article gives a survey of different methodological approaches to hair, namely the anthropological hair debate of the 1950s, studies on new Islamic dress, regional and culture-specific anthropological research on hair symbolism and hair sacrifice. Hair is either treated in the context of religious texts (Qur’an, Hadiths), Islamic institutional concepts of the sexual body (purity rules) or in the context of sacrifice revealing religious concepts of an asexual human body. It is shown that the contradictory statements of these diverse theoretical approaches are the result of a cleavage that can be traced throughout the literature and also accounts for the polyvalent meanings of the symbol of hair. Hair can be viewed in the context of individual versus society but also in the context of individual versus God. Therefore, the analysis of hair behaviour in Islamic societies has to combine both relations to understand the seemingly exotic behaviour of ‘the other’.