Ritual Exchange and the Fourth Obligation

Author(s): Chris Morehart; Noah Butler

Year: 2010


Employing Mauss’s notion of the fourth obligation, giving to the gods, this article develops a

formulation of ritual exchange to examine the interactive nature of ritual practice. As a modality of

interaction, ritual exchange is contingent upon enduring normative beliefs, such as perceived

obligations to spiritual entities, and the social positions of ritual practitioners. Consequently, ritual

exchange evinces not only the material and immaterial nature of sacred beliefs but also the potential

flexibility and fungibility of social interaction. By considering a relatively under-utilized form of data

to study past ritual, archaeobotanical remains, we employ this perspective to explore the ancient

Maya practice of offering foods in several caves in western Belize. These data exhibit complex

configurations of commonality and variability, suggesting the potential flexibility and latent

fungibility of ritual exchange.

Cite this Record

Ritual Exchange and the Fourth Obligation. Chris Morehart, Noah Butler. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 2010 ( tDAR id: 372412) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8N8784F

File Information

  Name Size Creation Date Date Uploaded Access
morehartbutler10jrai.pdf 1.02mb Dec 6, 2011 7:24:18 PM Public