Past events

RAI Research Seminar: Mark Mosko
Wednesday 04 March 2015, 05:30pm - 07:30pm
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The Christian dividual and sacrifice: Personal partibility and religious efflorescence among North Mekeo (PNG)

Professor Mark Mosko, ANU/LSE

Wednesday 4 March at 5.30 pm

I take it to be indisputable that Melanesian anthropology has received its greatest theoretical impetus over the past three decades in the wake of Marilyn Strathern’s masterwork, The Gender of the Gift (1988). Elaborating upon Mauss’s (1925) theory of gift-giving, Strathern’s partible dividual is constituted of the transactable components of persons identified in the gendered terms of same- and cross-sex relations, resulting in the placing of Melanesian persons in categorical opposition to the bounded ‘individual’ of Western discourse. In this essay I explore alternative implications following from Mauss’s earlier treatise (authored with Henri Hubert) on sacrifice (Hubert and Mauss 1899), reconceiving the Melanesian dividual instead according to the sacred attributes of persons, human as well as divine, and accordingly their ritual dynamics. I argue that from this vantage,the indigenous religious beliefs and ritual practices of North Mekeo (PNG) dividuals closely parallel those of supposedly ‘individual’ Christians – a convergence which has historically facilitated their remarkable synthesis. Reconceiving the dividual in religious terms of sacrifice thereby helps to transcend the supposedly essentialist divide separating Melanesia from the West and to undercut ethnographically the theological premise of the uniqueness of ‘individual’ Christian personhood.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to

Location 3